Knowledge synthesis resources

Resources for planning, executing, and reporting a systematic or scoping review

A knowledge synthesis review uses explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review.

Essential components of knowledge synthesis reviews:

  • Project protocol must be prepared before starting
  • Explicit inclusion and exclusion criteria established prior to screening
  • Documented, reproducible search methodology
  • High-quality search strategy that attempts to identify ALL relevant studies (including grey literature)
  • Rigorous and critical evaluation of the methodology of the selected studies

If you are considering undertaking a knowledge synthesis, the following resources may be useful. For assistance from the libraries, please visit our knowledge synthesis service page.

 Selecting a Review Type 

 Systematic Review Methodology 

 Scoping Review Methodology 

 Searching for prior reviews 
Before beginning a knowledge synthesis review, you may want to search the journal literature to determine whether a review already been done on your topic.

  • Does it need to be updated?
  • Was the search strategy appropriate?
  • Were the methods adequately reported?
  • Were the inclusion/exclusion criteria appropriate?
  • Did the authors evaluate the quality of the studies?

You should also check whether anyone is working on a similar topic by searching:

  • PROSPERO, an international register of systematic review protocols.
  • Open Science Framework, an international multimodal repository used to register scoping review protocols.

 Writing a Protocol 

 Where to search 
Searches for knowledge synthesis reviews are extensive in order to ensure that as many eligible studies as possible are included in the review.

Minimum bibliographic databases to be searched (according to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions): CENTRAL registry of controlled trials, Medline (via Ovid or PubMed).

Additional databases should be considered according to the topic of your project.

Additional non-database sources to search: Trial registries, reference lists, grey literature (such as conference abstracts, dissertations, etc.).

 Developing your search 

 Bibliographic management software 
Bibliographic management programs such as Zotero or EndNote allow you to save and organize references from your search.

  • Zotero is free to download for everyone.
  • Endnote is available to McGill residents, students, research personnel or attending staff for download via McGill University.
  • EndNote training sessions are offered on a regular basis in the MUHC Libraries. To view dates of sessions and to register, visit our Upcoming Classes/Workshops.

 Screening references 
Screening tools such as Rayyan allow you and your team members to screen your results effectively.

Rayyan is free to use for anyone:

The MUHC Libraries have also prepared tutorials to help you get started:

Polanin, J. R., Pigott, T. D., Espelage, D. L., & Grotpeter, J. K. (2019). Best practice guidelines for abstract screening large-evidence systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Research Synthesis Methods, 10(3), 330–342.

 Risk of bias & quality assessment 

 Data extraction 

The following titles are available as eBooks from the McGill library (accessible to McGill faculty, residents, fellows and students):

 Reporting items for all knowledge synthesis reviews 

 Reporting items for systematic reviews 

 Reporting items for scoping reviews