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Synthesis Review Toolkit Introduction: Tips for a Successful Synthesis Review

Success Factors for First-time Reviewers

Starting your first synthesis review may be daunting as a first-time reviewer. For instance, the extensive time commitment involved, working with a research team, or systematically using syntax in search databases may be a great departure from your previous studies.

To provide assistance to individuals embarking upon their first synthesis review, we have gathered key tips and advice for first-time reviewers from both the student's and librarian's perspective.

Tips from the Student's Perspective

Tips from the Librarian's Perspective

As part of SCPOR's webinar series Raising the Evidence Bar: Scientific Literature and Literature Synthesis series, Dr. Margaret Sampson, a medical librarian at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), presented a webinar titled "Literature Searches: Success Factors for First-time Reviewers." The following are key tips and advice that Dr. Sampson suggests to improve your review's search strategy:

  • When finding relevant reviews, you may be able to update or replace a review if it is not recent or if it was not conducted adequately
  • Narrow your question so that your results are not overly broad (extensive/impossible amount of search results to screen)
  • ​​ When conducting literature search of relevant reviews (stage 1: getting started), ask for help from your librarian to determine the size of the literature
  • If conducting a Systematic review, know that it is time sensitive. Dr Sampson suggests to submit to a journal that is likely to accept and publish the article efficiently

Advice & Other Comments

  • Understand that evidence synthesis projects are a lot of work
    • A Cochrane Review may take 2 years simply to develop the protocol
    • Standards of conduct continue to increase
    • The easiest topics have already been completed
  • In Dr. Sampson's experience, more than 1000 records to screen (stage 3: screening) results in more than 6 months of screening. Further, more than 6 months of screening leads to low completion/publication rates
  • When working on your review, keep checking to see if anyone has published a review on your same topic. If so, you will need to adjust your review

For access to the full webinar and presentation slides, click here.