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Systematic and Scoping Reviews Search Methodology

Reporting on the search methods

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. 


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

Importing References: Suggested Workflow

Most databases can export results in RIS format, which can be imported to Covidence. Suggested workflow:


1. Export references in RIS format from databases and save them in a folder.

2. In folder, create subfolders for each database (eg results from Medline, Web of Science, etc). Keep the original RIS files in case you need them later.

3. Import RIS files into Covidence, which will automatically detect and remove most duplicates.

4. Screen titles/abstracts in Covidence.  

5. For any additional duplicates found in Covidence, you can either:

a. simply screen them out

b. tag them, then manually adjust the numbers in the PRISMA diagram generated by Covidence.

6. When finished screening full text in Covidence, you can export included studies to citation management software. From Review Settings, select Export, Included, then choose which manager.

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