Systematic and Scoping Review Service

As national leaders in evidence-synthesis review support, Becker Library provides a robust Systematic and Scoping Review Search Service to the Washington University Medical Center community.

What is an evidence synthesis review?

Evidence synthesis identifies, selects and combines results from multiple studies. There are different review types that require a comprehensive search to ensure all evidence is identified.

A systematic review attempts to gather and compare all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified criteria in order to answer a specific research question. They are typically considered the highest level of evidence in evidence-based medicine. Our Systematic Review Guide includes resources and tools to support your review. 

A scoping review assesses the potential size and scope of available literature for a research question. Visit our Scoping Review Guide to find resources for conducting a scoping review. Other review types that need comprehensive searches include rapid, mapping, and umbrella reviews. If you are not certain which type of review is best for your research question, visit the Review Types Guide for more information. Becker librarians can also navigate you to the type of review you should pursue.

How can Becker Library help with your review?

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

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

Systematic/Scoping Review Search Service Policies and Procedures

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis faculty, students and staff are eligible for Becker Library review search services. There is no fee for this service but you may need to budget funds for articles not accessible through Becker library.

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

  1. Detailed search strategies
  2. Citation library of de-duplicated results (EndNote or RIS format)
  3. Access to a Covidence account (optional)
  4. Excel workbook of search results (optional)
  5. Methods section regarding search design and implementation according to PRISMA
  6. Data required for generating a PRISMA flow diagram

A complete systematic or scoping review project from searching through screening, to creating a manuscript can take as long as 18 months. The searching component can take anywhere from two to six weeks depending on the research question and the complexity of the search strategy. Your project librarian can give you a more accurate estimate of the time required to complete the search component after you have submitted the search request form

To fill out the Review Search Request Form, you will need:

  1. To have already conducted a preliminary search.
  2. A list of all members of your project team. We highly recommend assembling a team of at least three reviewers to screen and analyze results.
  3. A brief summary of your research question.
  4. Inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  5. A minimum of three example articles (benchmark articles). These articles should meet your inclusion criteria and likely be included in your analysis.
  6. An approximate timeline/deadline for completion of the systematic review project.

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

  1. Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  3. Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  4. 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 project librarian’s contribution to your systematic or scoping review project typically meets ICMJE authorship criteria. The librarian will provide a comprehensive description of the search methods and complete search strategies that can be included in the manuscript (as required by PRISMA reporting standards), and will also build the citation library. Please discuss any authorship questions or concerns with your project librarian.

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

We do not provide full-text article retrieval as part of our systematic or scoping review service. However, your librarian can show project members the process for retrieving full text and can assist with locating difficult-to-find resources. Our Full-Text Retrieval guide outlines how to retrieve full-text articles and how to save time by optimizing EndNote to automatically pull articles available from Becker library’s journal collection.


Biostatistical support

The Biostatistics Consulting Service is available to support meta-analysis of data extracted for a systematic review. 

Request a review search

Complete the review search request form.

Questions? Contact Debbie Thomas at or call 314-362-9729.