Librarian co-authors correlated with higher quality reported search strategies in general internal medicine systematic reviews

J Clin Epidemiol. 2015 Jun;68(6):617-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2014.11.025. Epub 2015 Feb 7.


Objectives: To determine whether librarian and information specialist authorship was associated with better reported systematic review (SR) search quality.

Study design and setting: SRs from high-impact general internal medicine journals were reviewed for search quality characteristics and reporting quality by independent reviewers using three instruments, including a checklist of Institute of Medicine Recommended Standards for the Search Process and a scored modification of the Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies instrument.

Results: The level of librarian and information specialist participation was significantly associated with search reproducibility from reported search strategies (Χ(2) = 23.5; P < 0.0001). Librarian co-authored SRs had significantly higher odds of meeting 8 of 13 analyzed search standards than those with no librarian participation and six more than those with mentioned librarian participation. One-way ANOVA showed that differences in total search quality scores between all three groups were statistically significant (F2,267 = 10.1233; P < 0.0001).

Conclusion: Problems remain with SR search quality and reporting. SRs with librarian or information specialist co-authors are correlated with significantly higher quality reported search strategies. To minimize bias in SRs, authors and editors could encourage librarian engagement in SRs including authorship as a potential way to help improve documentation of the search strategy.

Keywords: Authorship; Librarians; Publishing; Quality control; Standards; Systematic review.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Authorship / standards*
  • Information Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / standards*
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / statistics & numerical data*
  • Internal Medicine*
  • Journal Impact Factor
  • Librarians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Review Literature as Topic