Background: When conducting a systematic review, the search for evidence can be a challenging process for novice searchers. There are complex procedures with multiple sources of guidelines and the prevailing instruction is targeted at intermediate and higher skill levels. To address these challenges, this project created self-instruction materials framed along an explicit search workflow. This instruction was developed through qualitative content analysis of four major systematic review guidelines. The result is a comprehensive yet straightforward self-instruction guide for advanced literature search skills. This paper reports the development methodology and observations from the guide’s use in reference consultations.
Description: Instructional development began with the qualitative content analysis of search guidelines by four organizations (Cochrane, NAM, AHRQ, and CRD). Over 300 recommended search objectives and tasks were extracted, with many duplications across the guidelines. This analysis defined the phases of a comprehensive search workflow and synthesized recommendations into search tasks and stepwise procedures. The workflow has five phases addressing search strategy design, search conduct, results management, document retrieval, and search reporting. Additionally, a directory of 150+ recommended databases was compiled. The resulting instructional guide is assigned as preparatory reading before a reference consultation, serves as a discussion framework during the session, and functions as a reference tool afterwards. The guide was evaluated through librarian peer review and user feedback.
Conclusion: The self-instruction guide supports the UC San Diego Library’s systematic review service. It is situated in the consultation process as pre-session reading, a discussion framework, and post-reference support. Anecdotal evidence indicates the guide may prompt a user-driven consultation and may facilitate instruction on advanced literature searching. Because the guide synthesizes multiple guidelines, it has potential to standardize library services for systematic reviews. Future evaluation would assess the guide’s pedagogical usability. The guide is publicly available for re-use and customization.