Systematic review service

Learn more about the systematic review services available at Savitt Medical Library 

Basic support


  • Overview of the process
  • Advice on search question formulation
  • Guidance with systematic review steps
  • Advice on databases/sources selection for specific topics
  • Instruction in database platforms available
  • Training in use of bibliographic citation software (e.g. EndNote), to manage citations and share results
  • How to obtain full-text of published papers

Service details


All University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (including Speech Pathology & Audiology and the Sanford Center for Aging) and Orvis School of Nursing faculty, students and staff are eligible for Savitt Library systematic review services.

PICO Format

On the Systematic Review Request form you will be asked to outline your research question in PICO format. This allows us to easily understand the main concepts of your research question. Here is what PICO stands for:

P = Problem/Population

I = Intervention (or the experimental variable)

C = Comparison (or the control variable) [Optional]

O = Outcome

If your research question does not fit neatly into PICO that is okay. Just try to include the elements of your question as closely as possible into the format. Your collaborating librarian will discuss any questions or concerns about your research topic before putting together your systematic review search strategy.

Preliminary search

Types of searching

There are four kinds of searching that go into a systematic review.

Preliminary search

This is the kind of searching most people do when they start thinking about conducting a systematic review. The results from a preliminary search are not exhaustive, and should not be used as the sole source of data for your systematic review. The goals of the preliminary search include: identifying existing reviews, assessing volume of potentially relevant studies (assume an exhaustive search will identify about 2-3 times the number located in a preliminary search), and locating at least 2-5 example articles that meet your review criteria.

Exhaustive database and grey literature search

This is the search designed by a librarian trained on how to design searches for systematic reviews. One goal of an exhaustive search is to Identify all publications and as much grey literature as possible that meet study requirements. Another goal is to document and report the exhaustive search in such a way that it can be replicated for updates and reproduced by others after publication. For a librarian designed systematic review search fill out the Systematic Review Request form.

Hand search

Identify grey literature like conference proceedings, abstracts for posters, and presented papers not indexed in online databases. Sources to hand search include: subject specific professional association websites, major relevant journals, bibliographies of all included studies, and bibliographies of on topic reviews. It is best for the subject experts to do the hand searching since they are most likely to have access to conference archives on professional society websites. It is important to document all sources searched by hand and what was located for reporting and creating the PRISMA Flow Diagram.

Contact experts

The goal of contacting experts is to determine if more than one paper had been published on the same study and to identify unregistered studies with unpublished results or potential results.