Systematic Reviews

As national leaders in systematic review support, Becker Library provides a robust Systematic Review Service to the Washington University Medical Center community.

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review attempts to gather and compare all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question.

They are typically considered to be the highest level of evidence in evidence-based medicine.

How can Becker Library help with your systematic review?

As part of your systematic review project team, Becker librarians:

  • Design a comprehensive search strategy that complies with best practices and current systematic review standards
  • Translate search strategies across multiple resources
  • Provide search results using citation management software
  • Provide access to Covidence web-based software for screening results and managing the systematic review project
  • Write the complete search methodology that can be included in the final systematic review manuscript

For more information about Becker Library’s Systematic Review Service, please see our Systematic Review Guide.

Systematic Review Service Policies and Procedures


Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis faculty, students and staff are eligible for Becker Library systematic review services. Add a Becker librarian to your author team and we will design and manage thorough, complex searches in multiple databases.

What We Provide

We will work with your team to design and report thorough search strategies based on guidelines and standards set forth by CochranePRISMA and IOM.  We will also provide you with:

  • Detailed search strategies.
  • EndNote libraries of de-duplicated results.
  • Access to a Covidence software account (optional)
  • Excel workbook of search results.
  • Written methods sections regarding search design and implementation according to PRISMA and IOM guidelines.
  • Data required for generating a PRISMA flow diagram.

Time Required

We are often working on several systematic reviews and must attend to the reviews by the order in which we receive them. Please contact us a minimum of six to eight weeks before you hope to begin screening abstracts.

The average time it takes to design and complete a search is two weeks. How much time is actually takes depends on the complexity of the search, types of databases searched, changes required, and length of time required to resolve questions.

Requirements for Getting Started

To fill out a Systematic Review Search Request Form you will need:

  • To have already conducted a preliminary search
  • A brief summary of your research question
  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • A minimum of three example articles (benchmark articles). These articles should meet your inclusion criteria and likely be included in your analysis.
  • An approximate timeline/deadline for completion of the systematic review project

We are happy to assist you with refining your research question, putting together the preliminary search and locating benchmark citations. Please contact Debbie Thomas at if you would like to schedule a meeting prior to submitting the systematic review search request form.


According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, authorship should be based on the following four criteria:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

The search strategies librarians design and implement are a substantial contribution to the design of the study while the citation data we acquire and organize is a substantial acquisition of data. The written methods regarding the design of the search, resources searched, and data retrieved falls under drafting the work. We will provide any requested feedback and revisions as well as final approval of the written work. If we agree to be an author on a systematic review we will stand behind the accuracy and integrity of our role in the project.

If you would prefer to not include a librarian as an author we are happy to provide guidance on a systematic review search you design on your own.


Investigators submitting requests for comprehensive literature searches for projects with grant funding are expected to include library effort in the grant as an unpaid expert consultant.

Article Retrieval

Your librarian is not the appropriate person to obtain the physical articles. It is a fairly easy, though time-consuming task that we are happy to show you or someone on your team how to do. Our Systematic Review Guide has a section on full-text retrieval that outlines how to save time and money when pulling full-text articles and how to save time by optimizing EndNote software to automatically pull all articles to which Becker Library provides access.

Interlibrary Loan:  It is unlikely that Becker Library owns every article needed for your review, so be sure to plan for the expense of interlibrary loan. Interlibrary loan is a service provided to you by Becker Library that will obtain articles we don’t own on your behalf. There is a charge of $6 per article for Washington University in St. Louis faculty, staff and students.  The charge is $8 per article for BJH/BJC/SLCH members.


Other Types of Reviews

Some questions are not a good fit for systematic reviews, but there are at least 14 other review types that could be more suitable. Becker librarians can also help you navigate what type of review you should pursue.


Contact Debbie Thomas at 314-362-9729 or for assistance with your systematic review questions.

Get Started with a Systematic Review

Complete the Systematic Review Search Request Form.