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Knowledge Synthesis Support Guideline

Ontario Tech Librarians offer a tiered support model for students and faculty working on systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and other types of knowledge syntheses. Researchers may begin at Level 2, or may begin with Level 1 consultation and follow to Level 2.

We are able to provide up to 2 consultations total (2 hours) to each student or faculty member. Consultations are provided on a first-come, first-served basis and are subject to librarian availability at the time of the request. Due to the preparatory work involved before each
consultation, no-shows and last minute cancellations count towards the 2 hours of support.

Please Note: the average time to complete a systematic review or scoping review is 12+ months from initial consultation to production of the final manuscript (see suggested timelines for a Cochrane Review for reference). If your timelines are shorter, you should consider undertaking a different type of synthesis project or a traditional literature (narrative) review.

Tiered Support Model

Level 1: Introductory Consultation

  • Who is eligible to use this service?

    Current undergraduate students (e.g., a student helping a faculty member with a part of their review), graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research assistants, and faculty members at Ontario Tech University.

  • What is required of you?

    Before the first meeting with the librarian:

  • What does Level 1 Consultation involve?

    An introductory consultation may include:

    • Advising on the type of review appropriate to the research question
    • Clarifying information on the following steps in the review process including how to:
      • Refine your research question
      • Establish inclusion and exclusion criteria
      • Determine if an existing review or protocol on your topic already exists
      • Create and register a protocol
      • Choose databases, gray literature sources, and other information resources
      • Document and report search results
      • Select an appropriate tool for managing citations (e.g., EndNote)

    Any additional support is considered Level 2: Extended Consultation.

Level 2: Extended Consultation

  • Who is eligible to use this service?

    Current graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research assistants and faculty members at Ontario Tech University.

  • What is required of you?

    Before the first meeting with the librarian:

    Please Note: All Ontario Tech University students conducting their own reviews are required to complete the Project Proposal Form with their supervising faculty member for a Level 2: Extended Consultation.

  • What does Level 2 Consultation involve?

    An extended consultation may include:

    • Refining the research question
    • Recommendations for specific databases and resources to include in your review
    • Assistance with developing a comprehensive search strategy, including selecting appropriate keywords, subject headings, and syntax
    • Instruction on how to develop, test and translate search strategies for different databases
    • Tips for gray literature searching, hand searching, and supplementary search methods
    • Advice on using search filters/hedges to capture elements such as study designs, population groups, etc.
    • Guidance on how to export all search results to a citation management tool and how to use EndNote for managing citations and removing duplicates
    • Information on how to report search methods according to the PRISMA-S guideline
    • Best practices for documenting the search in the final manuscript (e.g., Methods section, Appendix)
    • Options for dissemination of the published paper


The following examples are outside the scope of our services:

  • Searching for existing or ongoing reviews on the same topic
  • Formal peer review of the initial and subsequent database search strategies (PRESS)
  • Developing database search strategies, running the searches, and extracting the results
  • Exporting references to a citation management tool (e.g., EndNote) and assistance with deduplication
  • Screening of studies based on predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Contributing to the Methods section of the final paper
  • Providing copies of search strategies for inclusion in the Appendix
  • Hand searching or gray literature searching
  • Advice on using review software such as Covidence or EPPI-Reviewer as the Library does not subscribe to these tools


If you have any questions or concerns about any of the information in this guideline, please email your subject librarian.

Last Updated: November 22, 2022

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