Review Service Guidelines

Demand for this service is high. We provide support for literature-based projects as our limited time and resources allow. Project requests are reviewed as they are received and are assigned to a member of the research and instruction team based on availability. While we will respond to your request relatively quickly, it may be several weeks before we can meet with you and begin working on your project.

Wait time is currently about 6 weeks.

Formal reviews are a lot of work. Including creating the protocol, building and running a quality search, collecting all the papers, evaluating the studies that meet the inclusion criteria and extracting and analyzing the summary data, a well done review can require dozens to hundreds of hours of work that can span several months. A systematic review requires subject expertise, statistical support and a librarian to help design and run the search. Moreover, all guidelines for carrying out systematic reviews recommend that at least two subject experts screen the studies identified in the search. A systematic review is a labor-intensive team effort.

Who can request librarian collaboration through the review service?

  • Help with evidence review projects can be requested by any full-time Harvard faculty member. Faculty can place requests on behalf of Harvard trainees or students but will be expected to participate in meetings where substantive aspects of the project are discussed
  • Requesters must provide a * email address (,, etc.)

What types of projects will we support?

  • Research projects for publications funded through Harvard (including NIH grants)
  • Grant applications
  • Theses, dissertations, and capstones
  • Projects partnering with for-profit companies will be reviewed on a case by case basis
  • We will not be able to work on multiple projects sponsored by the same PI concurrently
  • We can not support the production of practice guidelines because of the heavy time commitment required
  • Please contact us before you accept a commission or contract from an organization outside of Harvard such as the WHO or a Lancet Commission. We may not be able to meet deadlines associated with such projects or have sufficient staff resources to take on the work.

What to expect in your initial consultation

  • Discuss the scope of your research question or mediated search
  • Align the type of review with research question
  • Discuss the research protocol
  • Create a timeline for creating search iterations, translating across databases, and completion of the project
  • Plan the delivery of citations
  • Co-authorship or acknowledgement agreement

Levels of Service

Service Level Librarian Authorship Deliverables Effort (Average Hours)
Level I: Consultation & PubMed Search Acknowledgement
  • Initial hour-long consultation
  • Develop a PubMed search strategy with suggested controlled vocabulary and keyword selections
  • Identification and suggestion of other databases for extending search
  • Advice on citation and project management tools
3-4 hours
Level II: Review Service Co-authorship

Level I deliverables plus:

  • Translation of PubMed search strategy into other databases using controlled vocabularies and keyword selections
  • Providing guidance on searching the grey literature
  • Mediated search documentation
  • Assistance developing the protocol
  • Delivery of citation results
  • Authoring literature search methodology for the final manuscript
  • Reviewing the final manuscript before submission

While we can provide guidance on collecting full-text documents, we cannot collect documents on behalf of investigators because of staffing limitations.

We require a completed protocol before we can begin running searches for you (level II service). You may submit a request without a protocol, though we welcome one if it is already complete or in draft form. You can use this template to begin your protocol.

10 + hours

If you are prepared to make your request, please complete our Review Service mediated search form. If you are not performing a formal search and just need help from a research librarian, please use the Ask Countway form to place your request.