Skip to main content Matas Library Subject Guides Rudolph Matas Health Sciences Library Tulane University | Howard-Tilton Memorial Library's Homepage Tulane University Homepage

Public Health Portal Research Guide

Online books, journals, websites, databases, and other resoruces to support educational programs and research in the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Review types

Guidelines for a Systematic Review

Searching standards for Systematic Reviews

"[An] important element to report but few reviews reported the information is the qualification of the
searcher (question 8). In 2003, the Medical Library Association (MLA) policy statement on the role of the expert
searchers in health science libraries emphasized including librarians in the research process (Medical Library
Association, 2011). The MLA has been promoting the education of librarians as expert searchers with the
2008 publication of the MLA’s Essential Guide to Becoming an Expert Searcher (Jankowski, 2008; Medical Library
Association, 2011). Searcher credentials are not a requirement of the PRISMA checklist, although the MOOSE
checklist does request the qualifications of the searchers to be reported in the review (Moher et al., 2009; Stroup
et al., 2000). An expert searcher is an individual that possesses the knowledge as well as the skill to implement
the techniques and strategies necessary to locating information. It is a skill that comes with experience and
practice. It is not easily quantifiable, but it is an individual with experience developing and implementing
complex searches (Jankowski, 2008; Sampson et al., 2008b). Recent publications from the IOM and Agency for
Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) have stated the necessity to include a librarian or expert searcher in
the formulation of a systematic search strategy. The AHRQ’s report on finding evidence for comparing medical
interventions emphasizes the inclusion of information professionals in systematic reviews often translates into
better reporting of the search strategy within the review (Institute of Medicine (IOM), 2011; Relevo and Balshem,
2011). The systematic search strategy is a complicated practice that requires the knowledge and experience to
develop, test and implement complex searches (European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). A
systematic review team can be substantially benefitted from a skilled and experienced searcher who
understands journal indexing, database architecture and knowledge of the various specialized registries
available to locate ongoing research (McGowan and Sampson, 2005; Zhang et al., 2006). Additionally, an
experienced searcher will be well versed in the documentation and description of the search at the time of
publication and should be considered for acknowledgement or as an author if they meet the journal standards
for publication. Given all the benefits, we recommend including an individual with systematic search skills and
experience or at least consulting this type of individual before conducting the search and making this
information available in the methods (Sampson et al., 2008b).

Mullins, M. M., DeLuca, J. B., Crepaz, N., & Lyles, C. M. (2014). Reporting quality of search methods in systematic reviews of HIV behavioral interventions (2000-2010): are the searches clearly explained, systematic and reproducible? Research Synthesis Methods, 5(2), 116-130. doi:10.1002/jrsm.1098 [doi]

Review Tools