Systematic Review Services Specialization

Systematic Review Services Specialization

Earning a Systematic Review Services Specialization (SRSS) shows employers and colleagues that you have the information retrieval and management skills to support users and researchers in conducting high quality and reproducible systematic reviews.

Why Get Your SRSS?

Learning and developing SRSS skills can build your confidence and ability to participate in evidence synthesis projects as a respected member of a research team and can increase your value to the groups you serve, your library, and your institution—and expand your career possibilities.

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Who Should Get an SRSS?

  • Medical librarians and Health Information professionals who wish to acquire and expand skills in providing systematic review services.
  • Health sciences librarians who hold or are seeking positions as an informationist, education and research librarian, systematic review services librarian, systematic review service coordinator, or a related position.

What Skills Does the SRSS Address?

The SRSS is built upon the Systematic Review Services Competency:

Health and biomedical information professionals with competency in Systematic Reviews use a range of information retrieval and management knowledge and skills to support users and researchers. They promote the use of established guidelines, best practices, ethical synthesis practices, and transparent reporting in the service of high quality, reproducible scientific and biomedical research.

The Systematic Review Competency has two levels, Level I and Level II. Each level has skill indicators organized by topic.

SRSS Level I

Your Level I SRSS certificate will give you a solid grounding in the fundamentals of systematic reviews and prepare you to assist clinicians and researchers in conducting health sciences-related systematic reviews. With this accomplishment, you will not only have systematic review skills, you will be able to offer systematic review services with increased confidence and ease, expanding your career and job possibilities.

Each area is annotated with skill levels, which also appear in SRSS Level I course listings.

Fundamentals of Systematic Reviews

  1. Explain the major steps in the design and conduct of a systematic review (S1)
  2. Explain how systematic reviews differ from narrative reviews (S2)
  3. Explain how systematic reviews inform practice, policy, and research (S3)
  4. Explain the value of established systematic review guidelines and standards (S4)


  1. Negotiate involvement in systematic review projects (S5)
  2. Negotiate recognition of librarian’s intellectual contribution to a systematic review (S6)
  3. Collaborate with researchers to implement effective search strategies (S7)


  1. Conduct searches to confirm the need for a systematic review (S8)
  2. Select databases and other resources appropriate to a research question (S9)
  3. Develop an extensive, effective, systematic, and replicable search strategy for each resource appropriate to a research question (S10)
  4. Review search strategies under development using the PRESS (Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies) rubric (S11)

Documentation and Reporting

  1. Describe planned search methods (S12)
  2. Document search processes, including search iterations and decision-making (S13)
  3. Report search methods for publication in conformance with established reporting standards (S14)

Data Management I

  1. Utilize citation management software (S15)
  2. Inform researchers about available systematic review software (S16)


Your Level II SRSS certificate will enable you to serve as an expert resource for systematic review research teams on a wide range of systematic review tasks. You’ll also be able to develop or enhance the systematic review service at your library, serve as a peer reviewer for systematic review articles, and critically appraise published systematic reviews. Earning your Level II certificate will boost your skills and expertise and enhance your value as a partner in evidence synthesis research.

Project Planning

  1. Match a research question to an appropriate evidence synthesis type (S17)
  2. Advise systematic review teams on timelines, team composition, and productivity tools (S18)
  3. Collaborate with systematic review teams on developing systematic review protocols (S19)

Quality and Reproducibility

  1. Advise teams on selection and use of data extraction tools (S20)
  2. Advise teams on selection and use of risk of bias tools (S21)
  3. Prepare search-related data for deposit or archiving (S22)


  1. Identify and use search filters (S23)

Peer Review and Appraisal

  1. Peer review manuscripts for publication (S24)
  2. Appraise the quality of published systematic reviews (S25)

Service Management

  1. Implement best practices for establishing, managing, and evaluating systematic review services (S26)

What Are the Requirements for Earning an SRSS?

Requirements for Either SRSS Level

  • You must earn a Level I certificate before you can earn your Level II certificate.
  • You have three years to meet the requirements for a Level I certificate, i.e., courses submitted for the specialization must have been taken no more than three years prior to your date of application.
  • Your SRSS is valid for three years.
  • To keep your SRSS valid, you must take six credits of electives during the three years your SRSS is valid in order to renew your certificate.

Requirements and Recommendations for SRSS Level I

  • Complete 8 required core courses
  • Complete 6 credits of elective courses in any areas you choose

You can earn your Level I SRSS with on-demand offerings, with one exception: Essential Searching Skills for Librarians on Systematic Review Teams is only offered face-to-face or as an instructor-led virtual course because of the need for instructor feedback on search strategies.

We recommend taking required core courses in three phases that move from basic to more sophisticated skills and then taking electives of interest.

Phase 1 Suggested Courses

  • Planning for Systematic Review Success: Reference Interview & Protocol Development
  • Systematic Reviews for Beginners: How Librarian Participation Creates Better Evidence
  • What’s Needed to Make a Literature Search Reproducible? An Introduction to PRISMA-S

Phase 2 Suggested Courses

  • Librarians and Systematic Review Teams: Negotiating Roles and Recognition
  • Essential Searching Skills for Librarians on Systematic Review Teams
  • Systematic Searching: Improving Effectiveness and Efficiency

Phase 3 Suggested Courses

  • Citation Management for Systematic Reviews
  • Talking Tools: An Introduction to Systematic Review Tools

Finish by taking 6 credits of elective courses.

Requirements for SRSS Level II

  • Complete 11 required core courses
  • Complete 6 credits of elective courses in any areas you choose

See the Level II Course Catalog for both required courses and electives.

[BUTTON LINKS LEAD TO DYNAMIC or prepopulated Course Catalogs for SRSS Multi-sort: by Level, Core courses alpha, Elective courses alpha, THEN “Courses not currently offered but eligible for tjhis specialization; include SRSS-Skill level essential component

Credit for Activities Not Pre-Approved for SRSS

Boilerplate IPR form submission info, whatever that is

Applying for Your SRSS

  • Take the required number of MLA-approved courses for the level for which you are applying.
  • Check your transcript to ensure you have met all the skills for your application level.
  • You will only need certificates of completion if courses do not appear as completed in your transcript (i.e., were not taken through MEDLIB-ED)
  • If you have received a certification of completion or other evidence of course completion from an approved SRSS course that is NOT listed in MEDLIB-ED, submit a certificate of course completion with your application.
  • Payment must accompany your application for it to be considered, but you may save your application and return to it later. WILL THIS BE TRUE? ONLY IF SAVING APPLICATION WORKS IN WOOCOMMERCE ENVIRONMENT. IF NOT, we have to add a lot of extra “how to apply” info.

If you have questions: Please contact MLA’s Professional Development Department before completing your SRSS application or taking a course.

[LINK is to be to DYNAMIC form + product – NOT LIVE UNTIL JULY]

MLA will process your application and, on approval, send you a certificate recognizing your accomplishment.

Meet the Creators of the Data Services Specialization

A team of experts on systematic reviews and review services created the Systematic Review Services Specialization competency and identified the courses that serve the Level I certificate.

  • Terry Jankowski, AHIP, FMLA (Chair), Librarian Emeritus
  • Emily Ginier, Informationist, University of Michigan, Taubman Health Sciences Library
  • Margaret Foster, AHIP, Director, Center for Systematic Reviews and Research Syntheses, Texas A&M University, Medical Sciences Library
  • Mary Lou Klem, Assistant Director of Advanced Information Support, University of Pittsburgh, Health Sciences Library System
  • Mellanye Lackey, AHIP, Director (retired), University of Nevada Las Vegas Health Sciences Library
  • Whitney Townsend, Informationist, Taubman Health Sciences Library, University of Michigan

The SRSS was inspired by the article, A competency framework for librarians involved in systematic reviews. Two of the co-authors are on the team that created the SRSS.

In 2022, we added members of the Systematic Reviews caucus to the team to ensure that the Specialization remains strong and current. The current team supporting the Specialization is:

DYNAMIC: BELOW WITHIN THE ACCORDION Add public or member view of committee listing of SRSS Workgroup below based on member status

Instructors: Get Your Course Approved for SRSS

Only courses that serve the Systematic Review Services competency can be approved for SRSS. To have your course considered, select the appropriate specialization when you submit a course for MLA CE approval.  Contact the MLA Professional Development department for more information.