Help and advice with literature reviews and systematic reviews

A summary and analysis of the evidence

Do you want to write a systematic review, an article or a grant application for which a literature review is required? The (medical) information specialists at the University Library are experts at literature reviews, and are happy to give you advice, from honing the research question to publishing the finished article. We provide assistance to VU/VUmc researchers and staff from all subject areas. We guarantee quality, and an efficient approach that saves researchers a great deal of time.

What steps in a systematic review do we perform?

A systematic review provides a summary and analysis of the evidence from all good scientific studies relating to a predefined research question. The researcher can then use the systematic review to identify and evaluate the evidence. - Analysing and refining the research question (using a PICO model, for example).
- Selecting the search terms and the databases to be consulted.
- Removing duplicates from the search results obtained from the various databases.
- Keeping a logbook of the search strategy, to ensure it can be reproduced.
- Supplying a paragraph on the methodology for the article, as well as tables describing the search strategies.

On which steps in a systematic review can we provide advice?

- Selecting articles using Rayyan, a free selection tool; see also the Rayyan LibGuide.
- Bibliographic management using tools such as EndNote and Mendeley.
- Selecting the journal in which to publish the article.
- Open access publishing: check the VU Journal Publishing Guide.
- Publishing the systematic review protocol in the Prospero register to prevent redundant research.
- Creating an ORCID; the how and w of an why of ORCID.
- Critical appraisal tools: Cochrane Netherlands, CEBM Oxford, CASP, QUADAS 2  (diagnostic accuracy) and the Joanna Briggs Institute. For a non-exhaustive list: University of South Australia.
- List of the various types of reviews (e.g. scoping reviews).
- How to get the PDF.

- For advice about statistics and critical appraisal, contact the VUmc Epidemiology & Biostatistics Department.
- We can only help students if their research is intended for publication.

Naming the information specialist as co-author

The information specialist has final responsibility for the search method. For that reason, we ask that he or she be named as co-author of the systematic review article. After publication, the information specialist will be available to answer questions about the search method.

Quality standards for Systematic Reviews

The medical information specialists in the University Library conduct systematic reviews according to professional guidelines such as the Cochrane Handbook and the Standards for systematics reviews, IoM. Our contribution is essential, as demonstrated by research from Koffel (2015) and Rethlefsen et al. (2015).
Avoid bias: do not limit to a time frame or language, because this will introduce ‘publication bias’ into the research. See: Cochrane Handbook, 2019.

To ensure good collaboration, we expect researchers to:

- Think carefully in advance about the research question and the inclusion and exclusion criteria;
- Read the following LibGuides: Searching in PubMed; Systematische Reviews; tips and tricks for doing systematic reviews with EndNote and the Rayyan LibGuide (McGill University);
- Be familiar with the Prisma Statement and bibliographic management.

Scheduling an appointment

Download this form, fill it in and email it to to book an appointment.
Make sure you submit your request in plenty of time; there’s a two-week waiting list for appointments. In this period we cannot always make an appointment for literature research support with you within the usual two weeks. We receive a lot of requests for support and we have a vacancy just now. We also experience that we need extra time and energy due to the extraordinary circumstances and working from home.

The number of scientific publications in which the information specialists at the University Library have been involved, as at 11 February 2020:
•    Named as co-author in 217 publications (2004–2020)
•    Received an acknowledgement in 95 publications (2011–2020)

Our team of Medical Information Specialists

Hans Ket 
Johannes C.F. (Hans) Ket (coordinator literature research). Mail:
•  ResearcherID
•  LinkedIn
•  Twitter

Linda Schoonmade 
Linda J. Schoonmade Msc. Mail:
•  LinkedIn

Kirsten A. van Gelderen-Ziesemer 
Kirsten A. van Gelderen-Ziesemer MSc. Mail:
•  LinkedIn

Ralph de Vries 
Ralph de Vries Msc.
•  LinkedID

George Burchell 
George B. Burchell Msc.
•  LinkedIn

Published research in which we are mentioned (as per 3 October 2019):
•    in 204 publications as co-author (2004-2019)
•    in 91 publications with acknowledgement (2011-2019)