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An Examination of Systematic Reviews in the Engineering Literature

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Professional Issues and Opportunities for Engineering Librarians

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

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Paper Authors


Alison Henry University of Alberta

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Alison Henry is the Engineering Librarian at the University of Alberta. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University and spent several years working in Environmental Health and Safety in the Chemical Industry before obtaining her MLIS. Her research interests focus on research impact analysis, and information literacy in engineering education.

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Lauren Stieglitz University of Alberta

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Systematic reviews are a well-established method of research synthesis in medicine and the clinical sciences. Their use in other disciplines has been growing, especially in areas that collaborate with the health sciences. At the authors’ institution, requests for help with systematic reviews have become more frequent in recent years across several non-health-science fields. In this paper, the authors explore the use of systematic reviews in the engineering literature, and the need for engineering librarians to be familiar with the conventions of this methodology. This study seeks to answer three questions: 1) are systematic reviews being published in the engineering literature more frequently? 2) is this methodology more prevalent in certain engineering disciplines than in others? and 3) do systematic reviews see greater use than other types of papers? First, the share of papers using this methodology is examined to confirm the authors’ impression that the use of this methodology has increased beyond the rate of increase in publications overall. Next, bibliographic records from several abstracting and indexing databases are analyzed to identify the subject areas within engineering in which research synthesis techniques are most prevalent. Citation counts are also analyzed to determine whether systematic reviews are more likely to be used than other papers in the same subject areas, as has been shown to occur in some non-engineering disciplines. Finally, options for librarians to support this type of research synthesis are discussed, including building familiarity with tools such as Rayyan and Covidence, offering expert search guidance through instruction and consultation, and co-authorship.

Henry, A., & Stieglitz, L. (2020, June), An Examination of Systematic Reviews in the Engineering Literature Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34121

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