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Report on the Systematic Review Workshop: The Nuts and Bolts for Librarians at the University of Pittsburgh

Posted by on November 20th, 2017 Posted in: Advocacy, Funding, Training

by Sue Espe, BBA, MLIS, AHIP
Health Science Librarian
Merril W. Brown Health Sciences Library
Banner Health – University Medical Center
Phoenix, AZ 

It is with much gratitude to the National Network Libraries of Medicine Pacific Southwest Region for providing Professional Development Award funds for me to attend the Systematic Review Workshop: The Nuts and Bolts for Librarians, on November 13 – 15, 2017, at the University of Pittsburgh. As librarians receive increasing requests to perform systematic reviews, demand for this very popular semiannual workshop has grown and seats to attend it quickly fill. This year marks the 10th year that the workshop has been taught, which attests to its strong content. About a dozen librarians with varying levels of knowledge attended this session.

Instructors Charlie Wessel, Mary Lou Klem, Barbara Folb, Andrea Ketchum and Rose Turner are experts in this area and have thoughtfully created the workshop to generously share what they have learned through the years. They each reviewed standards, recommended key resources to search, outlined the steps to be performed and emphasized the importance of being a co-investigator. Initially, the fundamentals of study design and relationship of systematic reviews were highlighted. An emphasis was made on the importance of being a co-investigator as a member of the systematic review committee, being involved from the start, not simply as a side collaborator who only performs the search. Being a co-investigator, rather than a collaborator, allows for a much deeper understanding of the project and its objectives as well as providing influential guidance. The importance of thorough reference interview sessions with the principal investigator and committee was elaborated upon through illustrative examples. At the end of the interview process, librarians should have an extensive knowledge of the project scope, including an understanding of the protocol, defining terminology, and an exhaustive list of search terms.

Learning how to harvest terms, applying them in an orderly array and incorporating them into a search strategy was taught. Having easily interoperable and transferable searches between databases is necessary. Being methodical is beneficial for follow-up, reproducibility and writing the methodology. Explanations were provided for key databases that are essential to search, along with appropriate grey literature sources. The impact and handling of bias, duplication, and documentation was discussed. Throughout the workshop, hands-on group exercises enabled attendees to collaborate with each other to determine search terms and create search strings in a logical manner. With clearly written instructions and templates to follow, the groups were able to achieve performance of what was taught. Links to essential related websites, agencies, studies and guidelines about systematic reviews were included in course materials. Useful forms, checklists, templates and charts were also included.

With minimal knowledge about systematic reviews and no expertise in the performance of systematic reviews, but a great deal of proficiency in medical librarianship, this workshop allowed me to build upon my strengths and grasp all aspects of the process. Attending the workshop strengthened my confidence as well as provided me assurance that I would be following established and legitimate methods when working with researchers, physicians and nurses to fulfill systematic reviews. Overall, this workshop was one of the most informative and practical courses that I have attended. I highly recommend this workshop and encourage anyone who has an interest in learning about the systematic review process, standards, and practice tips, to make arrangements to attend. The instructors have expert knowledge, insightful practice stories and sage guidance to share. There is a standing list of prospective attendees and seats fill quickly, so it is important to make inquires early and start planning now to attend the next workshop in April, 2018!

Image of the author ABOUT Alan Carr
Alan Carr is the Associate Director, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region, based at UCLA.

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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM012341 with the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.

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