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Systematic reviews: Can librarians approve search strategies?

Can librarians approve search strategies for a systematic review?

Can librarians approve search strategies for a systematic review?

With the exception of our limited co-authorship service, library staff are unable to develop or approve search strategies for systematic reviews. This is because development of a structured search strategy for a systematic review is time intensive and involves a large commitment. It generally requires:

  • extensive background research into your topic
  • consultation with the review team around how terms will be defined, and inclusion/exclusion criteria for screening
  • text mining of a key group of papers to discover appropriate subject headings and search phrases
  • exploration of MeSH Terms (in Medline) and other sets of subject headings eg Emtree (Embase), CINAHL headings (CINAHL) 
  • extensive testing and refining of search strategies to ensure they are returning appropriate results

What feedback can librarians provide on search strategies?

Research librarians can be booked for:

  • an initial 1 hour literature search tutorial on a topic of your choice - this covers general search processes in Ovid Medline
  • up to two short (approx 15 minute) follow up consultations to provide general feedback on a draft search strategy created in Ovid Medline.

These consultations can cover:

  • whether your strategy "makes sense" in a structural way
  • that you have used Boolean logic (AND, OR, NOT) correctly to combine search concepts
  • that you have included both subject heading and text searching
  • that your search syntax is correct eg phrase.ti,ab.
  • general feedback on next steps to explore - this may include referring you to online resources
  • general questions on searching processes (although these will mostly be addressed in the initial search tutorial)

Please note that this feedback will be verbal. Due to time constraints we cannot provide written feedback on search strategies. 

What feedback can't librarians provide?

Without doing our own background research into your topic we cannot tell you if:

  • you have missed appropriate subject headings in Medline or any other database
  • you have missed relevant phrases or textwords that should be included
  • there is a more efficient way to search your topic
  • your search results are appropriate
  • your strategy has been translated correctly into another database
  • your strategy is complete or correct

Guide Author

Helen Wilding, Senior Research Librarian

Carl de Gruchy Library, St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne

Literature Searching, Systematic Reviews, Mental Health liaison 
Thursdays, Fridays & alternate Wednesdays
Helen's profile | Researchgate | Orcid