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Systematic and Scoping 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

If you're intending to publish in a journal, check its Instructions for Authors for any guidelines specific to systematic or scoping reviews. 

For more general guidance, please see the guidelines in the Review Types section of this guide that correspond with the type of review you're doing and the subject (social sciences, environment, health, etc).

There is emerging guidance on reporting searches in more depth to support reproducibility. Please see the PRISMA-S link below for a draft checklist and supporting material. 

Exporting database results, deduplication, and screening with Covidence

Most databases allow you to export large batches of results in RIS format, which can be easily imported to Covidence for screening. This guide from the University of Alberta Library offers detailed instructions for export from Ovid, PubMed, EBSCO, Proquest, and the Cochrane Library. 

A suggested workflow for managing references is:

  1. Export all references in RIS format and save them in a folder on your computer or in the cloud.
  2. Within that folder, create subfolders for the references from each database (eg Medline, Web of Science, etc). File each RIS file of references into its respective folder. Keep the original RIS files in case you need them later.
  3. Import RIS files into Covidence. Covidence will automatically detect and remove all or most duplicates. You will be able to review the duplicates for accuracy.
  4. Proceed with title/abstract and full text screening in Covidence.  
  5. Should you encounter any additional duplicates while screening in Covidence, tag them as duplicates, use filter to view the number of duplicates, then manually adjust the numbers in the PRISMA diagram generated by Covidence.
  6. Once you've finished screening full text in Covidence, you can export included studies to citation management software. From Review Settings, select Export -- Included -- then choose Zotero, RefWorks, EndNote, or Mendeley. 



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

2. For Web of Science, click "access the preview" to be able to export results in RIS format.

3. Some databases/websites don't support export in RIS format - see here for a workaround.


UBC Library now subscribes to Covidence, software which helps with the screening, quality appraisal and data extraction stages of systematic and scoping reviews.

To sign up for Covidence, visit the link below. You'll need to use an email address ending in

Other Citation Management Tools

UBC Library offers support for Zotero, RefWorks, and Mendeley. EndNote is another option, but UBC Library does not offer formal support for it.

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

  • Incorrect importing of citations from Ovid databases (especially EMBASE)
  • Zotero may slow down with large libraries (over 30,000 references)
  • Mendeley will, at times, not import duplicate references - use the numbers reported by the databases, rather than by Mendeley, for your PRISMA flow diagram