When researchers want to reach an unbiased conclusion on a topic that’s been studied extensively, they turn to a method called evidence synthesis, often in the form of a systematic review, to do so.
“This involves comprehensively collecting research evidence on a particular question using a very rigorous and standardized approach,” says Elizabeth Yates, Liaison and Scholarly Communication Librarian with the Brock University Library.
“The evidence is synthesized, summarized and critically appraised, and a conclusion is drawn based on the weight of the evidence gathered,” she says.
“Systematic reviews often published as scholarly articles have increasingly replaced traditional narrative reviews and expert commentaries as a way of summarizing research evidence,” says Science Librarian Ian Gordon.
Liaison and Collections Librarian Chelsea Humphries explains this research method arises out of the Health Sciences field, where practitioners would “strive to provide generalizable answers to clinical research questions by examining a multiplicity of studies” as a way of selecting the best treatments for their patients.
Systematic reviews investigate a narrowly defined research question, where a scoping review looks at a broader research issue.
Humphries, Gordon and Yates are offering a three-part, in-person workshop series that will enable the Brock research community to gain the knowledge and skills needed to conduct a systematic or scoping review from start to finish.
The workshops, which will all be held from noon to 2 p.m. in Library Classroom B, include:
Tuesday, April 12 — “Workshop 1: Introduction to Evidence Synthesis” covers key characteristics of the evidence synthesis process, systematic and scoping reviews, and other evidence review options as well as how to develop an appropriate research question.
Tuesday, April 26 — “Workshop 2: Searching the Literature” focuses on developing a comprehensive strategy to search the literature for an evidence synthesis review.
Tuesday, May 10 — “Workshop 3: Screening and Synthesizing Studies and Reporting Results” introduces key techniques and tools (for example, Covidence) for screening studies to determine whether they should be included or excluded in a final set of research evidence.
“We’ll be sharing best practices and offering hands-on activities to researchers so that they can practise these skills and workshop materials related to their own research topics and questions,” Humphries says of the three workshops. “It is my hope that those who attend will gain a greater understanding of the process and leave with a tremendous head start on their evidence synthesis projects.”
The Brock Library has developed a research guide to evidence synthesis and systematic reviews and has created a dedicated web page explaining how the Library can help support systematic reviews.
The three-part workshop is an extension of the Building Better Research series, a professional development program co-sponsored by Brock University Library and the Office of Research Services to guide researchers on the research process.