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Systematic Reviews

Article Screening Background

Article Screening

The purpose of article screening to remove studies that are clearly not related to your topic. Use your inclusion/exclusion criteria to first screen the title and abstracts of your studies and determine whether they are relevant to your research question. Once titles and abstracts have been screened, the full text must be retrieved and screened to definitely decide whether the study fits the eligibility criteria of your review.

Articles that are not freely accessible online or in print should be requested via Interlibrary Loan.  A UC librarian can help you track down hard-to-find full text articles for screening and review.  To exclude articles on the basis of full-text availability will weaken your systematic review.

It is highly recommended that two independent reviewers screen all studies, resolving areas of disagreement by consensus or by a third party who is an expert in the field. Listed below are tools that can be used for article screening.

Tools for Managing a Systematic Review

Excel is the most basic tool for the management of article screening. Lists of references can be exported from citation managers into Excel format for screening. A more advanced approach to using Excel for this purpose is the PIECES approach, designed by a librarian at Texas A&M. The PIECES Excel workbook is downloadable here: PIECES Excel Workbook

Rayyan is a free online tool that can be used for independent screening and coding of studies in a systematic review. Rayyan will pre-populate inclusion and exclusion criteria, but you can customize these criteria. It also uses tagging and filtering to code and organize references.  Title and abstract screening can be conducted in one project, while full text screening can be conducted in a second project.

Access Rayyan here.

Exporting Citations from Databases into Rayyan:

  • For systematic reviews, it is recommended to export all of your results into a citation manager, de-duplicating your results, and then exporting from your citation manager in RIS format.

  • RIS files from Ovid, EBSCO, or Scopus do not successfully import directly into Rayyan.
    • Export your results to a citation manager first and then export from your citation manager in RIS format.
  • Web of Science RIS files successfully import directly into Rayyan.
  • PubMed XML files successfully import Rayyan.

PRISMA Flow Diagram

PRISMA Flow Diagram

The PRISMA flow diagram depicts the flow of information through the different phases of a systematic review. It maps out the number of records identified, included and excluded, and the reasons for exclusions. Most systematic reviews include a PRISMA flow diagram to track the search, screening and selection process. See below for resources to help you generate your own PRISMA flow diagram.