Systematic Reviews of the Literature

Research librarians can partner with Duke Health faculty, students, and staff to author systematic reviews, scoping reviews, or other comprehensive literature searches.

The first step in getting started is to read the information and requirements and policies below. Next, please fill out our Literature Search Planning Form to the best of your ability and send it via email to to get started.

What we offer

We will work with you to develop a comprehensive approach that meets the requirements for conducting a systematic review of the literature. Add us to your author team and we will design and manage thorough, complex searches in multiple databases. We will also provide you with:

  • Covidence workspace with de-duplicated results
  • Tables with detailed search strategies
  • Narratives of the search methodology

Additional services may be available.

Time needed

  • Please contact us a minimum of 3-4 weeks before you hope to begin screening abstracts.
  • The average search takes 1-2 weeks to develop. Some may be faster, others longer. Particularly complex searches, those with multiple questions, and those requiring non-standard databases take longer to develop, run, and update.
  • Multiple iterations may be required to achieve the proper balance of precision and recall. We will work with you to review initial results to ensure relevance.
  • At any given time, we have multiple reviews in the queue, and it may take 1-2 weeks to schedule our first consultation.

Requirements for getting started

  • A protocol with key PICO questions delineated. If not available, you can use the "Literature Search Planning Form" for each question.
  • Contact information for a content expert who can answer questions.
  • 5-10 relevant citations to articles you would expect to find from the literature search.

Service Policy

  • Given the expertise and significant time commitment involved in this work, it is our policy that librarians' contributions be recognized with co-authorship of manuscripts when appropriate.
  • Priority is given to current Duke Health faculty, staff, and students.
  • Projects in which there are authors from many institutions will be considered if the Duke author is the project lead.
  • For academic projects, the librarian will work with the learner and/or the faculty member to determine what parts of the project must be completed by the student to meet the learning objectives for the academic project, and how to balance librarian expertise and contributions.
  • We will consider society projects on a case by case basis and reserve the right to decline if it is not in accordance with our other policies..
  • The Library will maintain records related to a systematic review for 7 years. Research teams are responsible for complying with any data sharing or archiving policies.


  • Comprehensive searches are a specialized service that are time and labor intensive.
  • Investigators submitting requests for comprehensive literature searches for projects with external grant funding are expected to include library effort in the grant.
  • Costs are based on librarian effort and can be covered via percentage of effort or billed hours. Note: sponsored projects can only be based on effort, not billed hours.
  • Fees are waived for individual faculty, residents, staff, and students who do not have external grant funding for the research project.


Outside groups interested in contracting with Duke Medical Center Library & Archives for these services can contact Sarah Cantrell.