By Allison Campbell-Jensen
In August 2021, Business Reference Librarian Maggie Parra participated in the Evidence Synthesis Institute (ESI), which offered comprehensive instruction for librarians on their role in assisting with systematic reviews.
“The course taught me about the different types of reviews, methodologies, reporting guidelines and standards,” Parra says about ESI, which was developed by Libraries staff and colleagues from other universities with funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
During her training, Parra was able to gain hands-on experience drafting search queries with subject-specific databases. She would meet daily with other business and public-policy librarians about trends and challenges
Putting skills to practice
She quickly had the opportunity to use her skills in the fall, when a research team from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs contacted the business reference desk for help with a systematic review. At that time, the team included Yuan (Daniel) Cheng, Assistant Professor in the Humphrey School, and Ph.D. candidates Shuyi Deng and Ahmad Banamah, along with Huafang Li, Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Community Innovation at Grand Valley State University (Michigan).
“The project aims to systematically review the existing literature that engage the voluntary failures theory, a major theory in nonprofit studies,” says Deng. In a nutshell, the theory describes the paradox that government funds much nonprofit organization activity, yet social welfare policy ignores these organizations in their assessments and nonprofit organizations neglect the major role of governmental funding in their revenues.
Parra and Riegelman met on Zoom with the team, whom Parra said already “had done an excellent job generating the search terms and providing the seminal article on the topic which steered the development of our search query.”
Deng notes that the team learned they could co-author with librarians for publication and that Parra has a particular interest in nonprofit studies — so they asked her to join them. This is her first experience as a co-author of a systematic review.
Systematic review involves screening
“We wouldn’t have made so much progress in such a short time without Maggie.”
As of late December, the work is ongoing and continues to be online. Deng says of Parra: “She used her expertise to help us refine our search keywords, identified the databases to search, designed search syntax that increased our initial search from about 40 results to nearly 2,000 relevant results.” After downloading titles and abstracts of articles, the team will screen them for relevance.
The team has access to Libraries’ license for the software tool Covidence, which streamlines screening and data extraction; it is only available to team with a librarian co-author.
She has provided many helpful tips, Deng says, for screening and coding. Once that step is complete, Parra will provide full-text articles for the final round of screening.
The team members are excellent communicators, Parra says, and Deng notes she always double-checks to make sure their needs are understood. She adds: “[Parra] also explained to us what she did so clearly that I have learned a lot about literature search and systematic review from her!”
Says Parra: “It’s been really exciting and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with them on this research.” As for the value of Parra’s contributions to their work, Deng says it is essential. “We wouldn’t have made so much progress in such a short time without Maggie.”