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Systematic Review Support Through Main Library

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Elizabeth Kline
Main Library A403
(520) 621-7209

Process and typical timeline

Systematic Review Process:

Evidence syntheses projects (including systematic and scoping reviews) are labor intensive.  

Writing the systematic review protocol may take 2-6 months and completing and writing a systematic review may take 1-2 years.( Cochrane Collaboration, Cochrane Community, Review Production. Time and Commitment.)  

A study of registered systematic review protocols found that the mean time taken to complete a systematic review was 1.5 years. (Borah, R., Brown, A., Capers, P., & Kaiser, K. (2017). Analysis of the time and workers needed to conduct systematic reviews of medical interventions using data from the PROSPERO registry. BMJ Open, 7(2), E012545.)

A study on scoping reviews found a mean time of 5.2 months to complete a scoping review, while the high of the range was over 1.5 years.  (Pham, M., Rajić, A., Greig, J., Sargeant, J., Papadopoulos, A., & McEwen, S. (2014). A scoping review of scoping reviews: Advancing the approach and enhancing the consistency. Research Synthesis Methods, 5(4), 371-385.)

  • PredicTER is an open-source tool that can help you plan, predict, and schedule your work

Typical timeline


Steps in traditional systematic review Estimated time investment
1. Assemble evidence synthesis review team and select project manager Varies
2. Identify appropriate review methodology 2 weeks
3. Define research question 2 weeks
4. Define inclusion/exclusion criteria 1 week
5. Select databases 1 week
6. Select grey literature resources 1 week
7. Write search strategy for "master" database

1 week

8. Write and register protocol (written compilation of previous steps) Varies
9. Translate search strategy to syntax of all databases (including grey literature) 2 weeks
10. Search and export results into citation management software  2 weeks
11. De-duplicate results 2-4 weeks
12. Title and abstract screening  2-3 months*
13. Retrieve full-text articles 1 month*
14. Full-text screening 2-3 months*
15. Risk-of-bias assessment 2-3 months
16. Data extraction 2-3 months
17. Meta-analysis or synthesis of results 2-3 months
18. Write the manuscript 2-3 months

*Time frame can vary significantly depending on the number of citations identified during screening

Steps and estimated time informed by Cornell University Library