Skip to Main Content
+27 21 959

ukwazi 2   

Evidence Based Practice: Introduction to Systematic and Scoping Reviews: Welcome

The Aim of this Guide

This research guide provides an overview of the Systematic and Scoping review process and how the Faculty Librarian can help postgraduate students and researchers during the process. This guide focuses on Systematic and Scoping reviews in a Health Sciences setting.

What is a Systematic Review?

A Systematic Review is defined as “[a] review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyse and summarise the results of the included studies” (The Cochrane Collaboration, 2005).

How the Faculty Librarian: Community and Health Sciences (CHS) can Help

Do you need assistance completing a systematic review for class?

Are you a student or researcher struggling to develop search strategies?

Do you need help navigating databases, conducting a grey literature search, or managing your citations?

The CHS Faculty Librarian is pleased to offer a variety of literature search services to students and researchers and consist of the following elements:

  • Find existing systematic reviews and protocols to inform your own protocol development.
  • Identify relevant databases and gray literature resources in which to conduct literature searches related to your topic.
  • Design and implement complex, comprehensive search strategies to maximize retrieval of relevant studies.
  • Create search alerts to ensure that new studies are found while the systematic review is in progress.
  • Use citation management software, such as Endnote and Mendeley to manage the study gathering and selection process.
  • Track down hard-to-find full text articles for screening and review.

Acknowledgement of Sources Used

Murdock University Systematic Reviews Research Guide

Curtin University Library's Systematic Review guide

Murdoch University's Library Systematic Review Guide

Grant MJ, Booth A. A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Info Libr J. 2009 Jun;26(2):91-108. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x. Review. PubMed PMID: 19490148.

Duke University: Medical Center Library & Archives Online Tutorial

Peters M, Godfrey C, Khalil H, et al. Guidance for Conducting Systematic Scoping Reviews.  Int J Evid Based Healthc. 2015;13:141-146.

A Systematic Review consist of the following Elements

A systematic review is a thorough compilation and analysis of all known evidence on a given subject. In order to be formally recognised by publishers and repositories, a systematic review must include the following elements:

  • A clearly defined research question and protocol (research plan). The research question is often developed after performing preliminary research on the subject, ensuring that it is viable for a systematic review. You should also thoroughly search the literature to ensure no other systematic review already exists on your topic.
  • Evidence of a rigorous search process. The reason why it is called a "systematic" review is because of the systematic search process that is required to uncover all of the evidence on a given subject. Systematic searching demands a carefully planned and thorough search strategy that will recall the maximum number of relevant results. For this reason, in addition to simply presenting search results, systematic reviews must include the exact search strategy used to find literature in each database.
  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria. Not all evidence found during the search process will be relevant or appropriate for your research question. That is why it is important to clearly define the criteria you use to decide which studies should and should not be included in your analysis.
  • Critical appraisal and bias assessment of all included studies. If a study is to be included in your review, the quality of its evidence must be critically appraised by each member of your research team. Additionally, because all studies carry an inherent risk of bias, studies should be thoroughly evaluated on their impartiality. This step ensures that your systematic review will represent the highest possible quality of evidence.
  • An in-depth report outlining the process of finding and appraising literature, extracting data, measuring bias, and analysing results. Systematic review report guidelines can be found in many places, and are discussed in more detail here.

Senior Librarian: CHS Branch

Profile Photo
Vuyokazi Kiva-Johnson
Community and Health Sciences (CHS) Branch Library,
First Floor, UWC CHS Faculty,

021 959 2684

Resources: The role of librarians in Systematic and Scoping Reviews

McKeown, S., & Ross-White, A. (2019). Building capacity for librarian support and addressing collaboration challenges by formalizing library systematic review services. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 107(3), 411.

Spencer, A. J., & Eldredge, J. D. (2018). Roles for librarians in systematic reviews: a scoping review. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 106(1), 46.

Eriksen, M. B., & Frandsen, T. F. (2018). The impact of patient, intervention, comparison, outcome (PICO) as a search strategy tool on literature search quality: a systematic review. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 106(4), 420.

Kocher, M., & Riegelman, A. (2018). Systematic reviews and evidence synthesis: Resources beyond the health sciences. College & Research Libraries News, 79(5), 248.

Bramer, W. M., Rethlefsen, M. L., Mast, F., & Kleijnen, J. (2018). Evaluation of a new method for librarianā€mediated literature searches for systematic reviews. Research synthesis methods, 9(4), 510-520.

Morris, M., Boruff, J. T., & Gore, G. C. (2016). Scoping reviews: establishing the role of the librarian. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 104(4), 346.

Ross-White, A. (2016). Librarian Involvement in Systematic Reviews at Queen’s University: An Environmental Scan. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association/Journal de l'Association des bibliothèques de la santé du Canada, 37(2).

Foster, M. J. (2015). Overview of the role of librarians in systematic reviews: From expert search to project manager.

Cooper, I. D., & Crum, J. A. (2013). New activities and changing roles of health sciences librarians: a systematic review, 1990–2012. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 101(4), 268.

Khan, K. S., Kunz, R., Kleijnen, J., & Antes, G. (2003). Five steps to conducting a systematic review. Journal of the royal society of medicine, 96(3), 118-121.







University of the Western Cape,

Robert Sobukwe Road,



Tel: 021 959 2946