Skip to main content

Getting Started

Introduction to Knowledge Synthesis

Knowledge synthesis is a type of research that evaluates and summarizes all available evidence on a particular topic through comprehensive literature searches and advanced qualitative and quantitative synthesis methods. The process includes study types like systematic reviews, scoping reviews, meta-analyses, and clinical practice guidelines.

Evidence synthesis is a form of research that includes dozens of types of reviews that all share a set of core methodologies, and that (in addition to systematic reviews) also includes umbrella reviews, clinical guidelines, rapid reviews, scoping reviews, meta-analyses, and more. The purpose of an evidence synthesis is to take all the available evidence on a topic and draw conclusions based on the amount and strength of the evidence available.

Knowledge syntheses share three fundamental traits. They are:

  • Comprehensive: They capture all the available research across many sources, often with the assistance of a trained information professional like a librarian 
  • Transparent: Every step and decision is recorded and described in the end report or in an online appendix 
  • Replicable: Sufficient detail is provided that another researcher could repeat the process and come out with identical or very similar results 

Choosing the Right Type of Review

Different disciplines have different types of knowledge synthesis. The main categories of review types are: systematic, scoping, rapid, umbrella, and meta-analysis. Within these categories are various specific kinds of reviews depending on what you’re trying to do, and each may have different guidelines/methods for conducting the review. 

Before Getting Started

Undertaking a knowledge synthesis is a big commitment and here are a few key things to consider:

  1. Time: This type of research can take anywhere from 9-24 months to complete depending on the topic and team availability. A literature or rapid review are options if you can’t commit to this length of time. 
  2. Team: This research cannot be done alone. Your team should have a minimum of 2 people, but ideally more depending on the needed expertise. For example, at least one person should be familiar with the review methodology, a statistician should be involved when doing a meta-analysis, and it’s strongly recommended to involve a librarian either directly as a collaborator or through consultation.  
  3. Guidance: Is there a standard, handbook, manual, or something to guide your chosen method? If so you should adhere to this guidance to ensure your work is transparent and reproducible.   
  4. Tools: You need to consider which tools are available to you for this type of research and which ones you may need to get access to. This can include choosing a citation management program (e.g. Zotero, Endnote), screening tool (Covidence, etc.), and data analysis.   

For a more detailed checklist, please see our Knowledge Synthesis Readiness Checklist.

UNB Libraries’ Knowledge Synthesis Service

Librarians at UNB Libraries offer different levels of support for UNB-affiliated faculty, staff, and students conducting knowledge synthesis projects such as systematic and scoping reviews. 

Librarian involvement is strongly recommended or required by organizations that fund and conduct knowledge synthesis projects (eg. IOM, Cochrane, CIHR, Campbell Collaboration, JBI). Librarian involvement in such projects has also been shown to improve the quality of reviews and lead to higher quality search strategies

Consultations and collaboration are available on a first-come, first served basis. Librarian availability to assist with knowledge synthesis projects may vary based on the time of year and the number of reviews being requested.  Please be aware that requests may be deferred, and/or may be referred to another librarian.

 Currently we have limited capacity to accept new review requests. Please contact us to discuss librarian availability for your project in advance of submitting a request

At UNB Libraries there are three tiers of service:


This service provides training and resources on the different steps involved in conducting knowledge synthesis projects. Synchronous and asynchronous instruction by trained librarians is available, as are librarian-curated resources. 


This service is available to UNB affiliated faculty, staff, and students wanting to learn how to conduct knowledge syntheses.

Supports Provided

This website: Information and resources provided on how to conduct knowledge syntheses. These webpages includes video tutorials on advanced searching, templates, links to guiding documents, and more.

Systematic Review Bootcamp: Workshop consisting of 5 sessions, typically offered in the spring, covering the entire process of conducting a review. Asynchronous videos from the 2021 bootcamp are available on the Workshops & Training page.

Customized group or individual instruction: Trained librarians can offer group or one-on-one training (online or in-person) on a variety of knowledge synthesis-related topics. Contact us to discuss options and availability.


This service provides up to 5-hours of one-on-one support for individuals conducting knowledge synthesis projects.  It is intended as a way to supplement existing or developing researcher expertise by providing guidance, support and instruction in specific areas of systematic and scoping review methodology. 


This service is targeted towards UNB students who are completing a knowledge synthesis for a course, thesis or dissertation, but may also be used by faculty and staff who feel it is the right fit for their needs.  Please complete the request form in order to use this service.

Supports Provided

When acting as a consultant for a knowledge synthesis project, the librarian’s role is to provide guidance, support, and feedback.  As part of that role, the librarian may:

  • Provide guidance on database selection and search design  
  • Offer suggestions about organization and record keeping to support compliance with PRISMA-2020 and PRISMA-S 
  • Provide database support specific to knowledge synthesis 
  • Advise on selecting screening and citation management tools 
  • Train on obtaining full-text articles 


This service embeds a librarian as a member of the research team.  The librarian becomes responsible for search strategy development, implementation, and reporting, in consultation with other team members.  At the completion of a project in which a librarian works in a collaborative, embedded role, they should be offered co-authorship in the final publication (as per the recommendations defining authors from ICMJE).


UNB faculty and staff working on knowledge synthesis projects may request librarian collaboration for their team.  Submitting a request for collaboration does not guarantee that it will be given, as librarians may use their own discretion in joining research teams. Please complete the request form  in order to use this service.

Supports Provided

When performing systematic review and scoping services, the librarian will:

  • Work with the team to develop an appropriate research question 
  • Provide guidance on database selection 
  • Check for existing or registered systematic reviews on the same topic 
  • Design and execute the systematic search strategy 
  • Advise the team on grey literature searching and may assist with running the searches on a case-by-case basis 
  • Export search results in RIS format to the researcher’s citation or review tool of choice 
  • Document search methodology, export search histories, and provide search details as recommended by PRISMA 2020 and PRISMA-S 
  • Write the source and search methodology sections of protocols and final manuscripts; provide search details for the appendix 
  • As a co-author, review and approve submitted manuscripts, and respond to reviewer feedback as needed