Knowledge Synthesis Studies

Collaborating with UTSC Librarians 

UTSC Librarians may be available to collaborate with you in the planning, execution, and writing of comprehensive evidence synthesis studies. Eligible research teams do not incur costs as a result of collaborating with librarians for these studies.  

Having a librarian on your team is recommended, or required, by many organizations that fund and oversee reviews. A librarian leads to higher quality search strategies and improves the quality of the review. UTSC librarians participate with the aim to improve the quality of evidence synthesis studies conducted at the university. 

Eligibility and parameters | Roles and deliverables | Submit a proposal

What do we mean by Knowledge Synthesis? 

U of T maintains a Knowledge Syntheses guide with resources on this topic. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR, 2016) defines knowledge syntheses as: 

"the contextualization and integration of research findings of individual research studies within the larger body of knowledge on the topic. A synthesis must be reproducible and transparent in its methods, using quantitative and/or qualitative methods." 

Although the term is strongly affiliated with the health sciences, Knowledge Synthesis includes systematic reviews, scoping reviews, rapid reviews, meta-analyses, realist reviews, living systematic reviews, narrative syntheses, practice guidelines, and other forms of published research analysis relevant across multiple disciplines. UTSC Librarians collaborate on Knowledge Syntheses projects with all departments at UTSC. 

Eligibility and parameters

Who is eligible | Who is ineligible | Eligible projects | Ineligible projects | Parameters

Who is eligible to collaborate?

Individuals affiliated with the University of Toronto Scarborough, including:

* You must be a current faculty member or post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Principal Investigator or Project Lead to apply to collaborate with a UTSC Librarian.

Who is not eligible to collaborate?

All individuals who are not affiliated with the University of Toronto Scarborough:

What projects are eligible for collaboration?

Projects can be:

Visit this guide that explains review types and methodologies.

What projects are not eligible for collaboration?

UTSC Librarians collaborate with faculty on evidence synthesis-type reviews leading to original research, not for the purpose of assignments or course-related studies. Librarians don’t collaborate on the following as part of their work on Knowledge Synthesis: 

*Note that your liaison librarian is always available for consultation on these topics.


The parameters of librarian collaboration, and expectations of the Principal Investigator / Project Lead and the librarian, are outlined below: 

Steps and timelines

Conducting an evidence-synthesis study is a big endeavour that can take 9-12 months or longer to complete. We're here to partner with you! Here is what you can expect from librarians at UTSC:


Apply using the proposal form once you have:

**Librarians are available if you need consultation on this process. 

Your proposal will be reviewed and forwarded to the appropriate librarian. If the project moves forward, the following steps are usually followed: 

Initial meeting 

A librarian will schedule an initial consultation with you to discuss your proposal. During the meeting, the suitability of your project will be determined and specific aspects of your project will be discussed, including: 

  • The research question and scope of review 
  • The search parameters (keywords, subject headings, limits, inclusion/exclusion criteria, etc.) 
  • Resources to be searched (databases, grey literature, etc.)  
  • Timelines 


Within an agreed upon timeline, the librarian will develop an initial search strategy, finalize the list of resources, and request your feedback. This is an iterative process that can take several weeks, during which the search will be edited until it is suitable and an agreed upon process will take place. In some cases, the librarian may run or execute searches for you. In other cases, your team may take on this task, with the librarian providing guidance on: best practices for searching, downloading, and managing citations. If appropriate, the librarian can also advise on some dimensions of project management, including workflows, systems, and tools for screening and extraction. 

Manuscript writing 

If the librarian is participating in article writing, they can write sections relating to the search strategy (such as methodology) to be included in the manuscript. The librarian will write these sections to maximize the transparency and reproducibility of the search. 

The librarian can also provide input on any keywords required for the manuscript submission process and help respond to peer review comments. Librarians can also provide guidance and resources to help you select potential journals to target for publication.  

For a detailed list of what to expect, please consult the Roles and deliverables section.

Note: Due to the time-intensive nature of this work, librarians may only participate in a few projects at a time and may not be immediately available to join your project.

A librarian may require a specific timeline, the work may be reassigned to another librarian, or your request may be queued based on librarian workload. Note that you may propose a project that cannot be taken on by the library for multiple reasons.

Roles and deliverables

The UTSC Library is committed to giving your project full consideration and the attention it deserves. Our goal is to follow established guidelines so that your work is successful. We define the roles and responsibilities of each party because this is critical for the project’s success.

Stage Principal Investigator's (PI) / Lead Responsibilities Librarian's Responsibilities
Request and initial meeting
  • The PI(s)/Project Lead(s) will meet with the librarian at the initial consultation.  
  • Submit request for collaboration, including a preliminary or draft protocol. 
  • Have a research team (minimum of two people excluding the librarian). 
  • Provide a rationale for a preliminary search if necessary. 
  • Follow the appropriate methodological framework for the requested project. 
  • Participate (in this meeting or afterwards) in a brainstorm for discipline-specific keywords.
  • Meet with the PI(s)/Project Lead(s), and the rest of the team for an initial meeting to discuss the research questions, fine-tune the inclusion and exclusion criteria, and determine limits as necessary. 
  • Follow the appropriate methodological framework for the requested project. 
  • Provide suggestions on necessary article databases.  
  • The librarian will provide guidance about the suitability of the project for librarian collaboration, and provide guidance for next steps if it is not. 
Preliminary search
  • Provide the librarian with a test set of key articles to be used to validate the search. 
  • Provide direction and feedback for the search in a timely manner. 
  • Develop search strategies for one database for review by the research team.  
  • Review team feedback, modifying the search strategy as necessary. 
  • Return the revised search strategy to the research team for final approval. 
  • The librarian will advise regarding peer review of the search strategy (tools such as PRESS). 
  • The librarian can also advise on dimensions of project management, including workflows, systems, and tools for screening and extraction. 
Final search and translations
  • Document every step of deduplication, screening, abstraction, analysis, and manuscript writing process. 
  • Share all documentation (including the draft and final manuscript) so that they may be reviewed and edited by the librarian, and other team members, if a manuscript is being submitted.  
  • Following approval of the search strategy, translate it to other databases.  
  • Maintain documentation of search process and results. 
  • Update research team on search status. 
  • Send search strategies to the research team to be executed or execute searches, as agreed upon by all parties.  
  • Help with execution of search results export (where appropriate). 
Ongoing collaboration and manuscript writing
  • Participate in the development of an agreed-upon, documented, realistic timeline determined in discussion with librarian, and the rest of team,  and abide by agreed upon timeline. 
  • Agree that the librarian will be a co-author in any relevant, resulting publication (Note that the librarian may choose to accept or decline up to final manuscript review).  
  • Agree that the librarian will be acknowledged in any presentations or published work related to the work.  
  • Agree that the librarian can remove themselves from the project if any of these stipulations are broken. 
  • Abide by the agreed upon timeline for deliverables. 
  • Attend team meetings when possible.  
  • Follow appropriate reporting guidelines if writing search methods. 
  • Document the search strategies as agreed upon by the entire research team. 
  • Provide guidance on reference management. 
  • If a submission is being prepared for publication: 
  • Suggest author-supplied keywords for manuscript submission  
  • Advise (where appropriate) on appropriate publication venues 
  • Review and edit manuscript before submission 
  • Address peer-reviewer comments on the search strategy, and search method 
  • Agree that the PI(s)/Project Lead(s) may choose to remove the librarian from the project if any of these stipulations are broken. 


Ready? Submit a proposal

Please ensure that you have read the Eligibility and parameters of collaboration.

You will receive a response from your liaison librarian as soon as possible. Note that times of the year and librarian workload may affect the speed with which you receive a response.

  • You must be current a faculty member or post doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Principal Investigator or Project Lead to apply to collaborate with a UTSC Librarian.
  • This service is for systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and other types of knowledge syntheses.

Note: Collaboration with UTSC Librarians is intended for evidence synthesis-type reviews leading to original research, not for the purpose of assignments or course-related studies. Students involved in assignment or course-related research can meet with a librarian for a consultation on how to conduct a comprehensive search of the literature.

Submit a proposal.