Skip to Main Content

Systematic Reviews: Support Overview

Librarian Support

Interested in systematic reviews? A librarian can answer your questions via email or meet with you for one hour to offer guidance on the process, standards and best practices.

We can discuss the following during the hour: What you can expect to do before we meet:
  • Advice on:

    • Identifying appropriate review methodology and standards

    • Formulating a research question, defining inclusion/exclusion criteria, and registering a review protocol

    • Advise on developing systematic review searches, including the use of index terms in appropriate databases 

    • Assist with building an initial PubMed search

    • Explain or demo different databases and search interfaces 

    • Screening software and methodology for article screening, critical appraisal, and data extraction   

  • Recommendations about databases, grey literature resources, and citation management software 

  • Identification of relevant databases, potential journals, and suggested edits for existing search strategies 

  • Identify your team - typically 3-5 people, including the PI, context expert, 2 reviewers, and an operations manager.

  • Review your team's time commitment - typically 12-24 months

  • Provide information on review questions, purposes, background/significance. Provide citations and/or links for up to 3 relevant articles.

  • Review the types of reviews (i.e. literature, scoping) explained below.


Covidence is a web-based tool that will help you through the process of screening your references, data extraction, and keeping track of your work. It is particularly useful for researchers conducting a systematic review, meta-analysis or clinical guideline.

View our help article to learn more and to get started with Covidence!

In Covidence you can:

  • Import references - Covidence works seamlessly with your favorite reference managers like EndNote, Zotero, Refworks, Mendeley or any tool that support RIS, CSV or PubMed XML formats. Covidence can automatically remove duplicates for you.
  • Screen title & abstract - Breeze through screening with keyword highlighting & a lightning quick interface. Covidence keeps full records of who voted and supports single or dual screeners.
  • Bulk PDF import Transfer PDFs stored in your reference manager to Covidence in a few clicks. 
  • Screen full text - Decide quickly on studies in full text. Capture reasons for exclusion and any notes so you can resolve any disagreements quickly, with a click of a button.
  • Create forms - Be in control and stay focused on your PICO question. Customizable extraction forms means you only spend time extracting what you need.
  • Customize risk of bias - Automatically populate your risk of bias tables by highlighting and commenting on text directly in your PDF.
  • Conduct data extraction - Extract data efficiently with a side-by-side view of your customized form and PDF. Then, when you are done, easily compare your form with other reviewers.  
  • Export - Covidence exports to all the common formats so you can continue your review in your preferred software. 
  • Collaborate - You can invite other reviewers (including external colleagues) to work with you on the project.

Is a Systematic Review for Me?

Systematic review - A systematic review synthesizes data from articles into a summary review which has the potential to make conclusions more certain. Systematic reviews are considered the highest level of evidence in evidence-based medicine (EBM) evidence pyramidAn overview of the systematic review process includes:

  • Time Commitment: Typically 12–24 months from start to finish (may take longer)
  • Team Requirement: Typically 3-5 people at minimum. You will need at least a primary reviewer and a secondary reviewer. Other roles to consider include a subject expert, methodologist/statistician, operations manager, and medical librarian.
  • Topic: A significant question is being asked and answered. The topic is not the subject of a recent review and is not being worked on currently by others.

If this doesn't meet your needs, see "A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies".

Grant, Maria J., and Andrew Booth. “A Typology of Reviews: An Analysis of 14 Review Types and Associated Methodologies.” Health information and libraries journal 26.2 (2009): 91–108. Web.

For your reference, see these examples of a UCSF-authored systematic reviewscoping review, and protocol. In addition to this, see our Resource List below.