School of Library and Information Studies

LIS 598 Systematic Review Searching

School of Library and Information Studies
University of Alberta

LIS 598:  Systematic Review Searching
Date: January 29-31, 2016


Sandy Campbell is liaison librarian to the School of Public Health and the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at Ualberta.  Sandy has co-authored numerous systematic reviews and has co-taught a Introduction to Systematic Review Searching workshop monthly since 2013.
Office:   WMC 2K4.01
Office Hours:  Monday 10:00  – 11:00, Weds 1:00 – 2:00 or by appointment
Phone: 780-492-7915

Thane Chambers is liaison librarian to the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta. Thane has co-authored and worked with many students and researchers on scoping, systematic, meta-analyses, and realist, and Cochrane reviews.
Office Hours: Tuesday 13:00-15:00; Thursday 9:00-10:00, or by appointment
Phone: 780-492-9684

Note: January 29-31, 2016 (13 hours) Friday 6-9 p.m. in Room 3-01 Rutherford South; Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in Lab WMC 2F-102;
Sunday 9 a.m.-12 noon in Lab WMC 2F-102. 

The goal of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the systematic review search process and to develop the skills necessary to execute the high level of searching required as part of the systematic review methodology.


Prerequisites:  Participants should have successfully completed LIS 536 OR possess a thorough understanding of Boolean logic and have experience in searching bibliographic databases at an intermediate level. 

 Objectives:  By the end of the course participants will:

  1. Be able to distinguish a systematic review from other types of reviews.
  2. Be able to describe the importance of systematic reviews/meta-analyses for clinical decision-making.
  3. Be able to describe the process of designing and executing a systematic search.
  4. Be able to describe the role of the librarian on a systematic review team.
  5. Be able to describe the components of a search protocol for a systematic review.
  6. Be able to create and execute a comprehensive search strategy suitable for a systematic review/meta-analysis.
  7. Be familiar with PRESS as a tool for peer-reviewing search strategies.

Methods:  A combination of pre-reading, lecture, demo, discussion, small group work, and hands-on practice will be used.

Course Relationships: This course will build on the search principles discussed in LIS 536 – Digital Reference and Information Retrieval

Marks:  Marks will be allotted as follows:

  • Class Participation:  15%
  • In-class Exercises:   45%
  • Search and PRESS Checklist Assignment (due Fri, Feb 12th, 2016): 40%   


Course Outline:

Friday, 6:00-9:00 pm

  • Introduction
  • Overview of systematic review search process
  • Role of the librarian in systematic reviews
  • Explanation of the assignment
  • In class examination of a systematic review. Please download and bring a copy to class:

Hartling L, Bialy LM, Vandermeer B, Tjosvold L, Johnson DW, Plint AC, Klassen TP, Patel H, Fernandes RM. Epinephrine for bronchiolitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD003123. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003123.pub3.  Retrieved from


Saturday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

  • Defining the research question
    • Protocol development-working as part of a research group
    • Structured search
    • Database selection
    • Grey Literature
    • Citation tracking
    • Hand searching
    • Developing the search strategy
      • Creating a comprehensive search
        • Hands on and small group work
        • Demonstration
        • In class exercises
        • Reference managers
      • PRESS checklist

Sunday, 9:00 am - Noon

  • Q&A session
  • Developing search strategy for publication
  • Organizing information for publication
  • In class exercise: mock search write up
    • Avoiding downstream problems
    • Lab time:  Continue developing search strategies for course assignment

Required Reading:

  • Dijkers, M. (2015). What is a Scoping Review? KT Update , 4(1). Retrieved from
  • Dudden, R.F. & Protzko, S.L.  (2011).  The systematic review team:  Contributions of the health sciences librarian.  Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 30:  301-315.  doi: 10.1080/02763869.2011.590425
  • Eden, J., Levit, L., Berg, A. & Morton, S. (Eds.) (2011).  Finding what works in health care:  Standards for systematic reviews.  Washington, DC:  The National Academies press.  Retrieved from  (In particular, see Chapter 3.  Standards for Finding and Assessing Individual Studies.)
  • Hemingway, P. & Brereton, N. (2009).  What is a systematic review, 2nd ed.  (What is…? Series).  London:  Hayward Medical Communications.  Retrieved from 


Recommended Reading

  • Dudden, R. F., & Protzko, S. L. (2011). The Systematic Review Team: Contributions of the Health Sciences Librarian. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 30(3), 301-315 15p. doi:10.1080/02763869.2011.590425
  • Fyfe, T., & Dennett, L. (2012). Building capacity in systematic review searching: a pilot program using virtual mentoring. Journal Of The Canadian Health Libraries Association (JCHLA)33(1), 12-16 5p.
  • Grant, M. J. and Booth, A. (2009), A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26: 91–108. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x 
  • Lefebvre, C., Glanville, J., Wieland, L. S., Coles, B., & Weightman, A. L. (2013). Methodological developments in searching for studies for systematic reviews: past, present and future?. Systematic Reviews, 278. doi:10.1186/2046-4053-2-78
  • Ludeman, E., Downton, K., Shipper, A. G., & Fu, Y. (2015). Developing a Library Systematic Review Service: A Case Study. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 34(2), 173-180. doi:10.1080/02763869.2015.1019323
  • Review Part 2. Chapter 6 of the Cochrane Handbook available at


Additional Resources

  • Cochrane Information Retrieval Methods Group website: 
  • Centre for Reviews and Dissemination.  (2008).  Systematic Reviews:  CRD’s guidance for undertaking systematic reviews in health care.  York, UK:  Centre of Reviews and Dissemination, University of York.  Retrieved from 
  • Literature Searching for Realist Synthesis. Retrieved from
  • Hartling, Lisa, et al. (2015). EPC Methods: An Exploration of Methods and Context for the Production of Rapid Reviews. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US). Report No.: 15-EHC008-EF. Retrieved from
  • Articles on Scoping Review Methodology
    • Pham, M. T., Rajic, A., Greig, J. D., Sargeant, J. M., Papadopoulos, A., & McEwen, S. A. (2014). A scoping review of scoping reviews: advancing the approach and enhancing the consistency. Research Synthesis Methods, (4), 371.
    • Peters, M. J., Godfrey, C. M., Khalil, H., McInerney, P., Parker, D., & Soares, C. B. (2015). Guidance for conducting systematic scoping reviews.International Journal Of Evidence-Based Healthcare13(3), 141-146. doi:10.1097/XEB.0000000000000050
    • Levac, D., Colquhoun, H., & O’Brien, K. K. (2010). Scoping studies: advancing the methodology. Implement Sci5(1), 1-9.
    • Arksey, H., & O'Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International journal of social research methodology8(1), 19-32.
  • Colquhoun, H. L., Levac, D., O'Brien, K. K., Straus, S., Tricco, A. C., Perrier, L., ... & Moher, D. (2014). Scoping reviews: time for clarity in definition, methods, and reporting. Journal of clinical epidemiology67(12), 1291-1294.