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Systematic Reviews Search Methodology

Reporting on the search methodology

The PRISMA Statement is the key guideline for reporting on the results of your literature search. PRISMA provides a checklist and a template flow diagram:

Publication Requirements

Groups that publish systematic reviews have their own criteria for accepting reviews.

RefWorks for Systematic Reviews

RefWorks or other citation management software is very helpful for managing and deduplicating search results. Please see the documents below for step-by-step guidance with using RefWorks for a systematic review.

Note: Some databases place limitations on how many results you can export at once to RefWorks. For instance, in Ovid the limit is 2000, but it's better to limit to batches of 1000 at a time.

Other Citation Management Tools

There are many other citation management programs available besides RefWorks. UBC Library offers support for Mendeley and Zotero. EndNote is another popular option.

Zotero and Mendeley have been found to have some limitations for systematic reviews. Notably:

  • Incorrect importing of citations from Ovid databases (especially EMBASE)
  • Can only deduplicate one reference at a time in Zotero
  • Zotero slows down with large libraries (over 30,000 references)
  • Mendeley will, at times, not import duplicate references which can lead to inaccurate reporting for the PRISMA flow diagram
  • Some people like to export citation manager results to Excel for the screening stage. This is straightforward in RefWorks, but not for Zotero and Mendeley

Other Systematic Review Software

Review Manager (RevMan) software is used for developing Cochrane systematic reviews. It's free and anyone can use it. It can help structure a review, build tables of included and excluded studies, and perform meta-analysis of study data. More details on using RevMan are available under the Statistics tab above.