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This LibGuide is based on the Libguide Systematic Reviews from the Vrije Universiteit medical library, Amsterdam

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What is a systematic review?

Systematic reviews seek to collate evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. They aim to minimize bias by using explicit, systematic methods documented in advance with a protocol.

Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.3 (updated February 2022). Cochrane, 2022. Available from 


The infographic: steps 'What authors do' working on a systematic review


Designed by Jessica Kaufman, Cochrane Consumers & Communication Review Group, Centre for Health Communication & Participation, La Trobe University, 2011. Avalable from 


Search Strategy Support


Developing a systematic search strategy can be a challenging task. We offer workshops and individual support for staff members and students of the UMCG and UG. We provide regular advice as well as collaboration (with co-authorship) in systematic (and scoping) reviews.

Go to: Make an Appointment (Search strategy)

We offer two types of Search support: regular advice and collaboration.
What is the difference and what can you expect?

  • Regular advice: This type of support is recommended when you have a general question, if you work on a Critically appraised topic or a non-systematic research project. Send us your search strategy (with MeSH and text words). We give feedback on the research question, the structure of the search strategy and give suggestions for further development of the search. After the meeting we will send you the document with feedback. Based on the tips we provide, you will further develop the search strategies yourself and translate these to other databases. 
  • Collaboration (co-authorship): Recommended if you start with a systematic (or scoping) review with the intention to publish. You ask an information specialist to be part of the review team. If we agree on collaboration, we make a plan for the search strategy development. This involves finetuning the research question, feedback on the protocol, selection of databases, research related to the search, the development, validation and translation of the search strategies. We document the search process and we write (or assist in writing) the methods and supplement for the protocol and the final manuscript. The information specialist is co-author of the review.
    Ask us for more information about the role of an information specialist and an overview of the tasks.


How can the Medical Library help?

Research librarians can partner with you on systematic reviews.

Add us to your author team and we will design and manage complex, thorough searches in multiple databases. We will also provide you with:

  • advise on reference management (EndNote),

  • tables with detailed search strategies,

  • a narrative of the search methodology.


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Sjoukje van der Werf
+31 (0)50 361 6197/ 6200



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Subjects: Faculty of Medical Sciences