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How Do I Do a Systematic Review?

Documenting the Search

The PRISMA Statement (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) includes an evidence-based minimum set of reporting items as well as a flow-chart to follow when reporting a systematic review or meta-analysis.

These two items on the checklist relate to the search process:

  • Item 7, Information Sources: Describe all information sources in the search (e.g., databases with dates of coverage, contact with study authors to identify additional studies) and date last searched.
  • Item 8, Search: Present the full electronic search strategy for at least one major database, including any limits used, such that it could be repeated.

See Cochrane Handbook 6.6.1 Documenting the search strategy

A structured approach to documenting a search strategy for publication: a 12 step guideline for authors

In summary document

  • lists of databases searched and vendor
  • number of references retrieved
  • exact search strategies
  • grey literature sources searched
  • other search techniques - hand searching, scanning bibliographies of pertinent authors, contacting experts

Managing and Screening Citations

Tools for managing reviews: use bibliographic management software such as EndNote Web ,Mendeley or Zotero

  • maintain a searchable database of references related to the systematic review
  • store all references selected for the systematic review
  • remove duplicate citations
  • store all discarded references
  • create citations and bibliography when writing up the results of the SR

Covidence is a web-based software platform that streamlines the production of systematic reviews, including Cochrane Reviews. The key steps in Cochrane Reviews supported by Covidence are: Citation screening. Full text review. Risk of Bias assessment.