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Health Sciences Literature Reviews

Overview of the library's service and a listing of resources to get started with your review.

About BUL's Health Sciences Literature Review Service

The Department of Health and Biomedical Library Services (HBLS) offers support to researchers at Brown University who work on literature review projects in the health sciences. The following information outlines service eligibility, levels of service that can be requested, expected timeframes for deliverables, and an intake form to request review support. Demand for this service is high. While we will respond to your request relatively quickly, it may be several weeks from the time a request is received before results are delivered.

After reviewing the below guidelines, please complete the intake form below. The intake form is required for all projects at the Level 2 of our service.

You may direct your questions to, and a member of the HBLS team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Service Eligibility

Faculty, staff, students, and researchers affiliated with Brown University (including residents, fellows, and clinical faculty of the Warren Alpert Medical School) undertaking literature review and evidence synthesis projects in the health and medical sciences are eligible to use this service.  

  • For students doing independent research, one or two 1-hr consultations are typically enough to help define the question and develop the search strategies.

  • For larger team projects, we will typically start with an intake interview to define the scope of the project and determine levels of service, timelines and expectations.

Levels of Service

Librarians provide two levels of support for health sciences literature reviews and evidence syntheses: (1) basic consultation service and (2) librarians as review team members. 

(1) Basic Consultation Service:

Librarians can work with students, faculty, staff, and other researchers on a consultation basis to:

  • Help define the research question and determine the most appropriate type of review for it.
  • Run a preliminary search to find relevant or pre-existing reviews on the research topic.
  • Recommend appropriate literature databases for the research topic.
  • Provide guidance on constructing a comprehensive literature search strategy for the topic.
  • Provide guidance on using a citation management tool (Zotero, EndNote), and/or using Covidence for screening and data extraction.

*NOTE: More than 2 hours of effort supporting a review project at this level typically results in an acknowledgement in the manuscript. This usually includes any combination of the following: multiple consultations or email responses, in-depth critiques of a comprehensive search strategy (or revisions to existing searches), and preliminary guidance on the development of the review protocol. If further support is being required by the review team, the following level of service would be more appropriate.

(2) Librarians as Review Team Members:

Librarians can also collaborate with researchers as part of the review team to provide further support. This level of service qualifies the librarian for co-authorship on the manuscript, in keeping with ICMJE's definition of the role of authors. Librarian services at this level include any combination of the following: 

  • Provide guidance on developing and registering a review protocol in PROSPERO or other protocol registries.
  • Collaborate with researchers to determine relevant literature databases and grey literature sources to be used, along with appropriate search parameters.
  • Construct a comprehensive literature search strategy and translate it across multiple literature databases and gray literature sources, as appropriate.
  • Document and report on the literature search methodology in accordance with PRISMA-S Reporting Guidelines.
  • Manage, export, and deliver search results for screening by the review team via Covidence or other determined screening or citation management tool. 
  • Save, update, edit, and re-run searches, as appropriate.
  • Identifies another librarian or information specialist to peer-review the primary search strategy according to the PRESS 2015 Guidelines.
  • Provide guidance on reporting the methods in accordance with appropriate reporting guidelines (for example, PRISMA 2020 Guidelines). 

Does your project qualify for this service?

The Health Sciences Literature Review Support Service will support the following projects:

  • Research projects for publications, either funded or not
  • Grant applications
  • Theses, dissertations, capstones, and other coursework

Due to staff capacity and high demand for this service, we will not be able to work on multiple concurrent projects from the same PI

Expected Timeframe

Literature searches for evidence synthesis projects can be time- and labor-intensive to conduct in accordance with relevant guidelines and standards. Searching for grey literature can further increase search timelines. In addition, librarians are often working on multiple projects at any given time. Researchers are encouraged to reach out to a librarian for assistance with their literature review projects as early as possible. It may take the librarian 2-3 months from the first meeting to deliver results to the research team, depending on the number of projects in the queue and the complexity of the search being requested.

Health Sciences Literature Review Service: Intake Form