Labelling: A Missed Step Between Record Screening and Report Screening of Systematic Reviews

What is labelling?

What’s the point of labelling?

  1. Classification: Librarians can remember that when social media were finding their dance feet, some started talking about hashtags and folksonomies (in relation to taxonomies) as classification done by folks! Many of us love classification simply because it feels good, and we control the information. Although it is not a controlled vocabulary, it has the same function and helps you in information [record] retrieval.
  2. Map or Overview or Scoping: Labelling your included records allows you to have a classification system giving you a map in the jungle of included records. Believe me; you would appreciate such a map. It can also show biases in the topic or search or journals’ scopes.
  3. Plan, Narrow Down, Broaden Up: such an overview can help you narrow down, broaden up, or plan ahead for the rest of your review. For example, if you have a tag such as ‘Non-English’ assigned to 38 records, you need to plan to find translators or money for translation ASAP. If the sub-topics look like a manageable sub-systematic review, why not ask one of your enthusiast students to dig it!
  4. Changing the Protocol! You can change the protocol for your systematic review, including your eligibility criteria, after seeing the distribution of the labels. I know it might look like an odd or unprofessional suggestion, but it is based on realism. We don’t always have a good idea about the monstrosity of the review at the start.

Systematic reviews — in most cases — are research type without the pre-specifiable sample size (number of included studies). Pragmatic decisions are usually required to adapt the size of the review to the available resources. Any changes from the pre-specified protocol should be documented and reported with reason. Changing the protocol is not the forbidden fruit.





A Proper Information Scientist/Professional with a Pinch of Career and Life Lessons

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