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Gerstein Science Information Centre

Systematic & Scoping Reviews : Methodology Behind the Search Strategies

This guide is primarily for students and other researchers conducting systematic reviews and scoping reviews for coursework, thesis/dissertation requirements, or for other research purposes.

Timeframe for a Systematic or Scoping Review

Be prepared for the length of time that is required to perform a systematic or scoping review.  Studies of this nature often require a minimum of nine months and often a year and sometimes longer.

Here is a breakdown of the length of time for the different steps of a Cochrane systematic review

Month Activity
1 - 2 Preparation of protocol
3 - 8  Searches for published and unpublished studies
2 - 3 Pilot test of eligibility criteria
3 - 8  Inclusion assessments
3 Pilot test of ‘Risk of bias’ assessment
3 - 10 Validity assessments
3 Pilot test of data collection
3 - 10 Data collection
3 - 10 Data entry
5 - 11 Follow up of missing information
8 - 10 Analysis
1 - 11 Preparation of review report
12 -  Keeping the review up-to-date

Source: Box 2.3.b: Timeline for a Cochrane Review, Cochrane Handbook

Team for Conducting the Systematic or Scoping Review

Systematic or scoping reviews are never conducted by one person.  They require:

  • Minimum 2 reviewers to minimize study selection bias
  • Team members who have expertise in:
    • Systematic or scoping review methodologies (or methodology of the type of knowledge synthesis being undertaken)
    • Searching  for studies/evidence*
    • Subject or clinical expertise
    • Statistics or quantitative/qualitative methods


* Cochrane, IOM as well as other organizations and studies recommend a librarian be part of the team due to a librarians' expertise in searching the medical information.  However, in the case course-related or assignment-related studies, a librarian will not be part of the team and instead provide a consultation on how to conduct comprehensive searches of the literature.