This lesson is still being designed and assembled (Pre-Alpha version)

Library Carpentry: Introduction to R and litsearchr

This Library Carpentry lesson introduces people working in library- and information-related roles to using R and Rstudio when working on systematic reviews. In addition to the basics of R and RStudio, you will learn to use the litsearchr R package.

litsearchr facilitates the development of a systematic search strategy, partially automating keyword selection from a set of search results and writing Boolean searches, including automating truncation of terms.

This is an introduction to R and RStudio designed for participants with no programming experience. At the conclusion of the lesson you will understand what R and RStudio does and how to use the litsearchr package to advance your work with systematic reviews.

Getting Started

Library Carpentry’s teaching is hands-on, so participants are encouraged to use their own computers to ensure the proper setup of tools for an efficient workflow. Our lessons focus on building software and data skills within library and information-related communities. To most effectively participate in the lesson, please make sure to download the data and necessary software beforehand.

This workshop assumes no prior experience with the tools covered in the lesson.

To get started, follow the directions in the Setup tab to get access to the required software and data for this workshop.


To complete this lesson you will need to install R and RStudio and download the following files from Figshare. Save the folder to your Desktop.

For this lesson we’ll be using a published systematic review Impact of alcohol advertising and media exposure on adolescent alcohol use: a systematic review of longitudinal studies which assessed the impact of alcohol advertising and media exposure on future adolescent alcohol use.

See Setup for information about how to install R and RStudio.

Lesson Overview

Lesson Overview
Day One: Introduction to R and RStudio Get an overview of systematic reviews, learn how to interact with R, install packages, and get data into RStudio.
Day Two: Introduction to litsearchr Explore, develop, and identify potential search terms before writing, translating, and testing search strategies with litsearchr.


Setup Download files required for the lesson
00:00 1. Introduction Why should I learn how to use R and litsearchr?
00:25 2. An overview of systematic reviews What is a systematic review?
What are the steps in a systematic review?
How does an information expert help?
How can a systematic review be automated?
00:50 3. Introduction to RStudio How to navigate RStudio?
How to run r code?
01:35 4. Create a Working Directory How to create a working directory?
02:15 5. Importing Data into R How to import data into R?
02:45 6. Interacting with R How to program in R?
03:10 7. Dataframes, Matrices, and Lists What is a dataframe in R?
How do you create a dataframe?
What are matrices in R?
03:40 8. Introduction to litsearchr What is litsearchr?
What can it do?
03:55 9. Developing a naive search and importing search results What is the purpose of a naive search?
04:45 10. Identifying potential keywords with litsearchr How does litsearchr identify potential keywords?
05:30 11. Search term selection with litsearchr How does litsearchr select important keywords?
06:20 12. Group search terms to concept categories Can you add in more search terms that were not identified by litsearchr?
06:45 13. Write a Boolean search string with litsearchr How does litsearchr write a Boolean search from the list of terms?
What are the different options for writing search strings?
07:05 14. Testing search strategy performance with litsearchr How should benchmark articles be chosen and used?
How do you add missing search terms to retrieve benchmark articles?
07:45 15. Assessment
07:45 Finish

The actual schedule may vary slightly depending on the topics and exercises chosen by the instructor.