Guidance and Support

We provide a private professional one-on-one mentoring service. We guide and support researchers, policy makers and academics to design, conduct and report research.

Systematic Review Services

If you request our private professional service to design, conduct and report a systematic review, please be prepared to discuss the following questions in the early planning phase of your project.

Why does ECEBM ask these questions?

Because we want to help you.

Systematic reviews require significant time and effort.  Methodology experts conduct significant work required for such projects, and also gather documentation that will be required for the final manuscript. We ask the questions below to achieve efficiency in work.

Do you have a team?

Each step in the systematic review process should be performed by more than one individual or require individuals with specialized skills. It is not methodologically acceptable that a single investigator conducts a systematic review.  Sharing tasks increases efficiency and reduces risk of bias.

Do you have appropriate expertise in all the required domains for completing a rigorous review?

Ideally, your team should include subject specialists, a systematic review methods expert, an information specialist, and a meta-analysis specialist (IOM standards, 2011 – See ECEBM resources page).

What is your timetable for the systematic review?

Like many other types of studies, systematic reviews require substantial time to complete. Establishing a timetable for your project will help the methodology expert to develop a reasonable schedule for supporting your work (IOM standards, 2011 – See ECEBM resources page).

What is your research question?

We need to know the question or topic you hope to address with your review. In addition, to ensure that we develop the most effective search strategies, we need to discuss your rationale for addressing the research question, your awareness of existing literature on the question, and possible variations in terminology used to describe the major concepts in your topic.

Have your supervisors approved your clearly formulated review question?

There are few things more frustrating than putting a large amount of time and effort into a systematic review, only to discover that your supervisors are not happy with your work and require major revisions that will need more time, effort and cost.

Do you have a protocol?

Like any well-designed research, your systematic review should begin with the development of a protocol: a detailed description of the rationale, objectives and methods of the review.  We can recommend resources (see ECEBM resources page) on developing protocols, including existing standards and examples. We can also assist in developing the section of the protocol that describes the methodology.

You should strongly consider registering your protocol with PROSPERO, or even publish your protocol in Systematic Reviews, or other appropriate entity (IOM standards, 2011 – See ECEBM resources page).

Protocol approval is required before we can begin work on a project.

Do you know that systematic reviews require literature searches in multiple databases and other information resources?

The purpose of a systematic review literature search is to find all the studies that may pertain to the review topic.  There is no single database that contains all the relevant evidence on a topic, so limiting the literature search to a single database will substantially increase the risk of bias in your review’s findings.  The appropriate number and types of resources to be searched will depend on your research question and outcomes of interest, among other factors.

Do you have the skills for managing search results?

Literature searches in bibliographic databases may produce thousands of records. Your ability to successfully organize and manage these results will impact your ability to complete your systematic review.  The literature search process will not begin until you have in place a system for managing and screening search results. ECEBM currently supports EndNote as a reference management tool.

Do you have the skills to screen the results of comprehensive literature searches?

Systematic review searches can produce thousands of records that must be systematically and independently screened by research team members. You must be prepared to document and report decisions made during the initial screening and full-text review. We can help with tools and software designed to help you streamline workflows associated with several of these tasks.

Have you thought about how you will obtain the articles you want to use in your review?

Many articles will be available through ECEBM’s Library. Other articles may not be available electronically or from ECEBM. In those instances, we will locate those items for you. ECEBM is not responsible for obtaining full-text articles for systematic reviews.

Are you aware of existing standards for the conduct and reporting of systematic reviews?

If you are not familiar with standards for systematic reviews, we highly recommend that you take a look at the IOM Standards for Systematic Reviews, the PRISMA Statement, CRD guidance or Cochrane Handbook (See ECEBM resources page).

You need formal training (Kindly check our educational program for the coming year) to acquire the basic skills to do your homework.

ECEBM HeRO team is available to support and guide you throughout the process and is eager to help with any or all of the following steps:

  1. Develop question
  2. Plan methods
  3. Write and publish protocol
  4. Develop search
  5. Run search
  6. Select studies
  7. Collect data
  8. Assess risk of bias
  9. Analyze data
    1. undertake Meta-analysis
    2. create GRADE Summary of Findings tables
  10. Write review
  11. Write Manuscript for publications