Formulate your research question as systematic reviews and scoping reviews are based on a scientific question. The systematic review process closely follows the scientific method. Just like in lab experiments, there is a question that is being explored. The question should be objective and not assume the answer.
Applicants with well-formulated research questions will be prioritized above those who do not. For resources to help develop the research topic/question check out the page The Research Question. We also recommend reading Cochrane's Rationale for well-formulated questions.
The TMC Library recommends having at least three people on your team as it is standard practice for search results to be blind-screened by at least two different subject matter experts for inclusion/exclusion during the screening process with the third acting as a tie-breaker for disagreements.
If your application has been accepted, an initial meeting is required. It is mandatory that the Principal Investigator attend this meeting.
Researchers are encouraged to search to determine whether there has been a systematic or scoping review published beforehand on the topic/question. This is because systematic reviews are highly-intensive research projects that take 1-2 years to develop from start to finish, and deduplication of work is to be avoided.
The Library includes in its criteria for application consideration, whether there has been a systematic/scoping review already conducted on the topic/question within the last 3 years. However, applicants with a strong argument for why the review should still be conducted, will be considered.
An example of a strong argument for why the review should still be conducted, although a systematic review is already published on the exact topic/question, would be if the applicant had done critical appraisal of the past systematic review and found significant problems with it that would affect the conclusions of that past review, warranting a new review. Check out the Critical appraisal tools from our Screening page.
There are several places to search for systematic reviews. The TMC Library encourages you to search for previously published systematic reviews in a few places including:
For systematic reviews that are in-process, you can search for registered protocols with the following resources:
You can check out protocol templates on the page Planning and Protocols. Protocols are plans for the review, and those who have well-developed protocols will be better prepared for the project. The TMC Library recommends reading Cochrane's rationale for Protocol Development, and how developing a protocol beforehand can reduce the risk of bias in systematic reviews. Please see the page Planning and Protocols.
You can submit your protocol along with your application in the form. You may set up a consultation to discuss protocol resources; however, the researcher is responsible for protocol development.
You will be notified via email that we received your application and provide an estimated wait time for processing. Processing time is approximately 7 business days.
The TMC Library Liaison Librarians process the applications for the Full Service. Applications are typically processed in approximately 7 business days, on a first-come-first-serve basis. However, due to the high demand, there may be waiting list times resulting in a queue. The Library will announce longer estimated wait times in this LibGuide and on the page with the application form. You may also be notified of longer wait times via email, if you have submitted an application.
The Librarians will process the application and determine whether a systematic or scoping review already exists on the topic. This is to avoid duplication of effort/work as systematic reviews/scoping reviews take approximately 1-2 years to develop. This means a review that has been published in the last 3 years, still has relevant/timely findings. One of the criteria for having your application denied is the topic/question having been previously published within the last 3 years. Please utilize the resources in "How to Apply" under the section "Conduct a search" to determine whether a review already exists on the topic/question.
If the application is denied, the applicant will be notified via email with one of the reasoning listed in Reasons for Denying Applications. The Librarian may also encourage the applicant in ways that they could reapply that would strengthen the application and make recommendations for how to get approved.
If the application is accepted after processing, the librarian will contact the person who submitted the application.
If the application is accepted, the liaison librarian will reach out to the applicant to schedule the initial consultation and project intake meeting. At minimum the applicant, the principal investigator (if different from the applicant), and one other person from the team (ideally one of the screeners) must attend the meeting. During this meeting the following is discussed:
Applicants who do not submit protocols will have their applications denied.
The Liaison Librarian will adhere to PRISMA standards for the search and will exhaustively test the search until it has been finalized for translation. The Librarian will be in communication with the research team's primary contact to ask questions, schedule consultations, and update the team on the search's progress. Additionally, if there are any potential issues with the search that may affect deadlines, the librarian will notify the group's primary contact.
After the search has been translated, and the results have been deduplicated; the librarian will deliver the results in the agreed upon format.
The TMC Library will deliver results through the following formats: RIS files; RefWorks Projects; EndNote Libraries; and Compressed EndNote Libraries. RIS file types are compatible with Covidence; Rayyan; EndNote; RefWorks; Zotero; Mendeley; etc. The Librarian can send you instructions on how to access/import the file into the team's citation manager.
The Librarian will also deliver the search strategies, the coverage information, deduplication documentation, PRISMA diagram (with relevant data), and a written portion of the methodology section.
Systematic and Scoping reviews can produce thousands of results, meaning that it takes considerable time to process these results. Journals may request that the search be ran again for updates before publication. Please contact the Librarian who worked with you to coordinate deadlines for any possible updates. Updates do take time, so please contact the librarian as soon as possible if an update is being requested by the Publisher/Journal.
An incomplete application can include or be a compound of the following:
The TMC Library will prioritize novel review questions/topics over those that have systematic/scoping reviews already published on the question/topic within the last 3 years. This is because of the workload, time, and effort it takes to conduct a systematic review. Systematic reviews have found to take on average 67.3 weeks to complete. Developing systematic reviews that address novel questions also increases the chances of having the systematic review manuscript published.
A novel review will address a genuine gap in knowledge, so review authors should be aware of any related or overlapping reviews. This reduces duplication of effort, and also ensures that authors understand the wider research context to which their review will contribute. Authors should check for pre-existing syntheses in the published research literature and also for ongoing reviews in the PROSPERO register of systematic reviews before beginning their own review (para. 6).
Those with applications that make strong arguments in why the review should still be conducted, will be considered. What are examples of strong arguments?
Please note that all interactions with TMC Library staff must follow the Library’s Code of Conduct and adhere to professional standards. For those who who have been accepted for services, the liaison librarian has the right to cancel services if research teams violate the TMC Library's Code of Conduct.
There are requirements that applicants must Accept when filling out the application. If any of these are Denied, then this will result in the application being denied. There are 4 requirements that applicants must accept:
1. It is required that the Librarian will be listed as a coauthor on any publication resulting from the full systematic/scoping review service.
As such, the Librarian reserves the right to:
(A) resign from the team if standards for the search and review process are not followed;
(B) resign from the team, if the principal investigator becomes non-communicative;
(C) request a protocol from the team before beginning the search;
(D) review the final draft of the manuscript before it is submitted;
(E) remove their name from the manuscript if desired.
2. Systematic/scoping reviews are extremely time-consuming. The TMC Librarian assigned to your Systematic Review may need anywhere from 1-3+ months to develop and test your search strategy, translate it to additional databases, deduplicate, and deliver the results.
3. It is standard practice for Systematic Review search results to be blind-screened by at least two different subject matter experts for inclusion/exclusion, in order to decrease the possibility of reviewer bias. The Librarian cannot fulfill this role.
4. Systematic/scoping review searches often result in hundreds or even thousands of citations. After the librarian has deduplicated and delivered the results, the researcher is then responsible for managing citations and retrieving the full-text of articles.