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Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses: Help & Training

This guide is designed to help novice and experienced review teams navigate the systematic review and/or meta-analysis process

The Evidence Synthesis Services (ESS) Team at the University Libraries is here to help!

Scroll down for workshops, recordings, and evidence synthesis training opportunities!


The ESS Team is available for three levels of support:

Level 1: Consultation
  • about 3 consultations per project
  • basic methodological advice (help you find options)
  • suggest resources and tools
  • connect to available training and workshops

Level 2: Mentorship (with Acknowledgement*)
  • ongoing guidance 
  • provide support for protocol development
  • methodological guidance for search strategy development
  • tailored feedback, troubleshooting, and suggestions for enhancements on search strategy 
  • provide support for resources and tools

Level 2 support requires that library employee is acknowledged in final manuscript and accompanying output related tothe search; Level 2 is not available for class assignments; Level 2 availability dependent upon staffing capacity.

*Authorship v. acknolwedgement expectations for in Level 2 may vary based on authorship/acknowledgment criteria set by project funders and/or target publication outlet.

Level 3: Partnership (with Authorship)
  • in-depth collaboration
  • contribute to protocol development
  • set up Covidence project
  • responsible for developing the comprehensive search strategy with input from the team
  • running searches 
  • download and deduplicate results 
  • contribute to methods and other portions of the manuscript as appropriate 
  • provide support for file and data management 

Level 3 support requires that library employee is included as an author on final manuscript and other related outputs; Level 3 is not available for student projects (e.g., dissertation, thesis, class assignment); Level 3 availability dependent upon staffing capacity - email for more details.

To request support email

In your email, please include:

  1. Your scope (research question and eligibility criteria) and at least two seminal articles.
  2. Whether you have searched for in-progress and/or existing reviews, and if so describe what you found.
  3. The review methodology (or methodologies) that you think fit your scope.
  4. Two to three meeting times that would work well for you during the next 2 weeks.


Literature Review and Synthesis Basics Series (Fall)

These 1.5 - 2 hour introductory sessions are for those who want to learn more about evidence synthesis approaches. Lessons can be applied generally. These sessions are held every fall semester and the recordings are posted on this page (below).

Search the Library Events Calendar for upcoming "Evidence Synthesis" workshops!

Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Deep Dive (Registration for January 2024 is open now!)

This 4-day workshop is great for those who want to learn more about and practice the skills required for conducting systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses. Intended audience has some familiarity of the systematic review and meta-analysis process and aim to start their own review in the near future. Recordings are only distributed to participants (not registrants).

Learn more about our Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Deep Dive instructors!

Additional Offerings (by request)

By request, the ESS team provides in-class instruction (e.g., one-off, embedded), instruction tailored to a specific audience, and other educational opportunities. Reach out!

Recordings & On-Demand Support

Literature Reviews & Evidence Synthesis Methods (Fall 2022)

Evidence synthesis (ES) reviews are comprehensive, rigorous reviews of available information and often serve as the foundation of evidence-based decision making. During this session, we will illustrate the characteristics and history of ES, and describe some of the methods commonly used today. By the end of this 1.5 hour session, you’ll be able to (1) differentiate narrative/traditional literature review and a systematic, evidence synthesis approaches, (2) recognize commonly used reviews methods and how to select methods based on your goals, and (3) consider how to apply some best practices from evidence synthesis to your literature review, regardless of the method you choose.

See the current slide deck here:

Link to past recordings on the Older Workshops tab.

Developing Scope & Search Strategies (2023)

Defining the scope and designing a systematic search strategy can be overwhelming and tedious. Join us for this 1.5 hour workshop where we’ll (1) consider approaches to developing a clearly defined research scope, (2) translate your research question/s to a search strategy, (3) recognize features of a systematic search approach, and (4) know how to report your search strategy transparently and replicability. This session is part of the Evidence Synthesis Basics Series (link), but is applicable to any literature review approach.


2023 Edition 

See the current slide deck here:

Resources & Tools For Literature Searching & Reviews (2023)

How do you decide where to search? How can you access something the library doesn’t have in its collections? How can you be alerted to new studies that have just come out?  How can you stay organized throughout while finding and selecting literature for your review? In this 1.5 hour session, we’ll introduce you to tricks and helpful tools that address these questions and can help you save time and enhance your searches for and review of literature.

2023 Edition 

See the current slide deck here:

Link to past recordings on the Older Workshops tab.

Evaluating Literature & Critically Appraising Research (2023)

Critical appraisal is a universally useful skill for any literature review method. In this 2 hour session, we’ll discuss the importance and value of evaluating literature and critically appraising research. Participants will be introduced to several critical appraisal tools that can help researchers to evaluate the risk of bias in studies and reviews. We’ll also discuss how you may consider approaching critical appraisal in your own review.


2023 Edition

See current slide deck here:

Link to past recordings on the Older Workshops tab.

Step-by-Step Covidence Webinars

View anytime here!

Provided by Covidence - covers all steps from getting started to exporting.

The Basics of Covidence

Sign up here!

Developed by the Evidence Synthesis Services team at the University Libraries at Virginia Tech. Updated October 2022.

Watch this video at your own pace to learn about the systematic review software, “Covidence”. Whether you’re conducting a full systematic review, or just have a large number of references to review, this software will help streamline and keep track of the process. You’ll receive PDN credit for watching the videos and completing the quiz.

Information about specific aspects of Covidence

Bulk Uploading of Full-Text and Full-Text Retrieval

Recording here

The Covidence Team presents updates regarding the full-text retrieval and uploading process in a public forum, October 2022.

An Update on Machine Learning (AI) in Systematic Reviews

Recording here

The Covidence Team and external collaborators discuss AI in Systematic Reviews

Open Access & Evidence Synthesis (Fall 2021)

This session will begin with a discussion on how open access supports several aspects of the evidence synthesis process. We’ll explore the value of having open access sources to include in the synthesis itself and some challenges that must be overcome when searching and accessing sources that require institutional access or are fee-based. We will also address ways to utilize open access repositories (such as VTechWorks and Open Science Framework) to make your synthesis more transparent so that others can properly evaluate, replicate, or use your synthesis. Additionally, we will hear cases from folks who have used open access resources or repositories as a means to support their evidence synthesis projects. Panelist include:

  • Dr. Sofia Rincon Gallardo Patino, Regional consultant on Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Pan American Health Organization
  • Dr. Linbing Wang, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech [unfortunately Dr. Wang was unable to attend this session]
  • Dr. Anne Brown, Assistant Professor, Science Informatics Consultant at the University Libraries at Virginia Tech
  • Dr. Ryan Stewart, Associate Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech

Grey Literature 101 (Spring 2021)

Systematic Review & Meta-Analysis Deep Dive (2023)

During this 4-day workshop participants will become familiar with the major required steps of this methodology, practice relevant skills, and consider the many decisions necessary for a successful synthesis.

Below are recordings from the 2023 SRMA Deep Dive that focus highly on systematic review and meta-analysis research through a series of live video workshops with multiple lecturers and topic experts. 


Day 1 | Getting Started & Systematic Searching

In the SRMA Day 1 Deep Dive video, the learning objectives are:

  • Differentiate between a systematic review and a review done systematically.
  • Become familiar with major steps required for systematic reviews.
  • Practice the relevant skills for systematic reviews.
  • Consider the many decisions that are necessary for effective evidence synthesis.
  • Know how to find ongoing support Virginia Tech with ESS and SAIG.


Winter 2024 Edition


Day 2 | Title & Abstract Screening and Critical Appraisal

In the SRMA Day 2 Deep Dive video, the learning objectives are:

  • Gain an understanding of the title and abstract (TIAB) screening process. 
  • Become familiar with piloting the stages of a systematic review.
  • Understand critical appraisal and why it is important to the systematic review process. 
  • Become knowledgeable about common research biases.


Winter 2024 Edition 


Day 3 | Data Extraction (Qualitative Synthesis) 

In the SRMA Day 3 Deep Dive video, the learning objectives are:

  • Learn how to create a data extraction form. 
  • Lean how to present the results. 
  • Learn about qualitative synthesis and how it can be an effective research tool.
  • Understand qualitative coding as a possible method of research application.
  • Learn about some of the different types of qualitative synthesis and the benefits. 


Winter 2024 Edition



Day 4 | Meta-Analysis (Quantitative Synthesis) 

In the SRMA Day 4 Deep Dive video, the learning objectives are:

  • Define meta-analysis (MA).
  • Learn why and when you would want to do a meta-analysis.
  • Learn the basics of effect size measures.
  • Learn the basics of different meta-analysis methods including: fixed and random effects models, forest plots, heterogeneity, sub-group analysis, meta-regression, and small-study effect (publication bias).
  • Understand the practical things that are important to MA's. Like software used and data extraction.


Winter 2024 Edition 

View recordings from past Evidence Synthesis Basics workshop series:

View recordings from past Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Deep Dives series:

Training outside VT

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) | Training Modules for the Systematic Reviews Methods Guide

American Institutes for Research (AIR) | meta-analysis, systematic reviews, and other evidence synthesis approaches (MOSAIC)

Campbell Collaboration | recorded workshops, training, presentations

Cochrane Collaboration | Interactive LearningCovidence Training

Collaboration for Environmental Evidence | trainingwebinars

Covidence | Covidence Academy

Carrie Price's | 5-minute Friday Videos; short videos covering various ES-related topics


Collaborations in Evidence Synthesis

On the next tabs, we've curated links for several collaborations relevant to evidence synthesis in different fields.

What are they?

Collaborations in Evidence Synthesis are groups of researchers, librarians, information professionals, statisticians, etc. who conduct or support the conduct of evidence synthesis reviews. These groups tend to focus on a specific discipline - for example, the Cochrane Collaboration only produces and supports reviews related to health and medicine. Use the tabs in this box to explore some collaborations by discipline.

Why are they important?

These collaborations cross national boarders and have the power to connect you to a wider community of synthesis and knowledge translation professionals in your field. Often, evidence synthesis collaborations will also manage the production, review, and updating of discipline-specific guidelines and expectations. Although the basic procedures for evidence synthesis methods are respectively similar across disciplines, there are some nuances that discipline-specific collaborations are best suited to address. 

How to get involved

In most cases, it not necessary to be involved with one of these collaborations in order to publish your own review in the field. To publish with a specific collaboration, you will need to adhere to a specific set of standards unique to that collaboration. For example, if you plan to publish with the Campbell Collaboration, they have author requirements such as following MECCIR Conduct and Reporting Standards.

If you are interested in becoming more involved, some collaborations have a standing invitation for volunteer to act as peer reviewers, editors, or serve on sub-committees.

Systematic reviews help food manufacturers, veterinarians and other animal health professionals understand the vast volume of scientific research. Originally used in human health, sociology, and education, our group has extensive and unique expertise in conducting systematic reviews in any area related to food, food production and animal. We have worked extensively in food safetyanimal health and animal welfare. We have also numerous publications and video tutorials on how to conduct reviews.

An open community of stakeholders working towards a sustainable global environment and the conservation of biodiversity. CEE seeks to promote and deliver evidence syntheses on issues of greatest concern to environmental policy and practice as a public service.


Effective Health Care (EHC) Program

The Effective Health Care (EHC) Program improves the quality of health care by providing the best available evidence on the outcomes, benefits and harms, and appropriateness of drugs, devices, and health care services and by helping health care professionals, patients, policymakers, and health care systems make informed health care decisions. The EHC Program achieves this goal by partnering with research centers, academic institutions, health professional societies, consumer organizations, and other stakeholders to conduct research, evidence synthesis, evidence translation, dissemination, and implementation of research findings.

We are an independent, diverse, global organization that collaborates to produce trusted synthesized evidence, make it accessible to all, and advocate for its use. Our work is internationally recognized as the benchmark for high-quality information about the effectiveness of health care.

JBI is an international research organisation based in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. JBI develops and delivers unique evidence-based information, software, education and training designed to improve healthcare practice and health outcomes.

The Campbell Collaboration is an international social science research network that produces high quality, open and policy-relevant evidence syntheses, plain language summaries and policy briefs.

The EPPI-Centre is committed to informing policy and professional practice with sound evidence. As such, it is involved in two main areas of work:

  1. Systematic reviews: This includes developing methods for systematic reviews and research syntheses, conducting reviews, supporting others to undertake reviews, and providing guidance and training in this area. 
  2. Research use: This includes studying the use/non-use of research evidence in personal, practice and political decision-making, supporting those who wish to find and use research to help solve problems, and providing guidance and training in this area. 

ESS Coordinator

The ESS Team

Jackson Hoch

Resident, Evidence Synthesis Librarian

Liaison to Library Human Foods, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences

Kiri DeBose

Director, Health Sciences Libraries and Head, Veterinary Medicine Library 

Liaison to Veterinary Medicine, Animal & Poultry Sciences, Dairy Sciences, Population Health Sciences

Virginia (Ginny) Pannabecker

Assistant Dean and Director, Research Collaboration and Engagement