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Systematic Review

Resources for conducting a systematic review research.

Managing the Process

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Further reading:

How to write a great research paper using reporting guidelines - A toolkit for writing research from the EQUATOR Network.

Reporting Guidelines

One of the first hurdles to get over when writing up a research plan or reporting the results of your study is finding the appropriate reporting guideline.

  • The EQUATOR wizard will help you choose the right reporting guideline for your work. A few examples for generic study types are listed below. 
  • The EQUATOR search will allow you to browse a library of reporting guidelines, or search for a specific checklist.

 (Click image to navigate to EQUATOR main)

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Logos of Endnote, Zotero, Mendeley and Papers

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Citation Management Tools

Citation management is essential in a systematic review. There are a number of citation management tools available that are compatible with many of the databases and resources you'll use.  Visit the citation management guide to get started. It only takes a few minutes to set up an account with such tools as ZoteroMendeley and Endnote Online. For more advanced features, you may consider purchasing the desktop version of Endnote

Endnote Resources

Below you will find selected resources to assist you with various functions on Endnote.

Zotero Resources

A screenshot on where to find that link in an EBSCO database


Downloading large results from EBSCO

In EBSCO databases, find a link called "Email a link to download exported results." This will allow you to download the results in RIS file format and import that RIS file into Zotero.

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For more tools, check out:


Authorship Order


  • Systematic Review Accelerator (SRA) offers users a reliable program to remove duplicate records with greater sensitivity and specificity than EndNote. SRA aimed to reduce the amount of time taken to produce systematic reviews by maximizing the efficiency of the various review stages such as optimizing search strategies and screening, finding full-text articles, and removing duplicate citations. This application can save researchers and information specialists time and avoid research waste. Visit the help guide to get you started or read the review article.

  • NOTE: Read further about the types of duplicate records in a systematic review context


  • Excel is the most basic tool for the management of the screening and data extraction stages of the systematic review process. Customized workbooks and spreadsheets can be designed for the review process, and lists of references can be exported from citation managers into Excel format for screening.
  • Evidence synthesis tools for Campbell authors - a list of tools for review, screening, data extraction and analysis. 
  • Catchii - a systematic literature review screening application. Read more about its features in the article by Halman & Oshlack (2023)
  • Distiller is designed for screening and data extraction phases of systematic reviews. Free for student as a single user for one project for 1 semester with no collaboration with other users.
  • JabRef is a free reference manager that helps you to discover, collect, organize and cite your scholarly literature and research in an efficient way. Check this Libguide and a video on how to use JabRef.
  • PICO Portal - A systematic review platform that leverages artificial intelligence to accelerate research and innovation. Useful for deduplication, screening and collaboration with researchers from different organizations. Watch video tutorials before you get started.
  • Rayyan is a free online tool that can be used for independent screening and coding of studies in a systematic review. Rayyan uses tagging and filtering to code and organize references. Citations can be uploaded from RefMan, EndNote, BibTex, CSV or zip file formats.
  • RevMan is used by Cochrane reviewers to manage the data extraction and analysis process. It is a free tool that is geared toward Cochrane-like reviews.
  • RobotAnalyst is a free online tool "for searching and screening reference collections obtained from literature database queries. It combines search engine functionality with machine learning and text mining technology, including topic modelling and relevancy feedback-based text classification models, to minimise the human workload involved in identifying relevant references."
  • GradePro is used to create summary of findings tables. Free for single-users and non-profits. 
  • Search result formatting - a method for formatting a list of search results in a Word document in which each numbered record contains an openURL link resolver link.
  • Sysrev - a collaborative web-based application that uses machine learning to optimize systematic literature reviews. It helps facilitate screening, collaborative extraction of data from academic articles and abstracts, PDF documents.The free platform supports open access/public projects only. There is a fee to apply privacy settings.
  • CADIMA - Try this open access tool for all stages of your systematic review project! 

Kohl, C., McIntosh, E. J., Unger, S., Haddaway, N. R., Kecke, S., Schiemann, J., & Wilhelm, R. (2018). Online tools supporting the conduct and reporting of systematic reviews and systematic maps: A case study on CADIMA and review of existing toolsEnvironmental Evidence, 7, 8.

Citation searching, chasing, or snowballing

It is recommended to search the reference lists of included papers for potentially relevant ones. Below are guidelines on how to use the proper terminology to describe the process of citation chasing:

  • Hirt, J., Nordhausen, T., Fuerst, T., Ewald, H., Group, Tarc. study, & Appenzeller-Herzog, C. (2023). The TARCiS statement: Guidance on terminology, application, and reporting of citation searching. medRxiv.

Data Extraction

  • SRDR+ (Systematic Review Data Repository) - a free tool for data extraction, management, and archival during systematic reviews.

Retraction Watch


Text mining


  • RAWGraphs is an open-source data visualization framework built with the goal of making the visual representation of complex data easy for everyone.
  • CitNetExplorer is a software tool for visualizing and analyzing citation networks of scientific publications. The tool allows citation networks to be imported directly from the Web of Science database. Citation networks can be explored interactively, for instance by drilling down into a network and by identifying clusters of closely related publications.


Converting scanned PDFs to text

  • Convert PDF to DOC - This free online PDF to DOC converter allows you to save a PDF file as an editable document in Microsoft Word DOC format, ensuring better quality than many other converters.
  • Instructions on how to convert scanned PDFs into text using Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word

Translation tools

  • In Google Docs, click on the Tools > Translate document menu at the top of the page. 
  • Google Translate can translate PDFs if they were saved using Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
  • Yandex.translate can translate document types DOC, DOCX, PDF, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX, and other files up to 5MB in size.
  • DeepL translator - a free online tool for translating text without limits.
  • Cochrane TaskExchange - articles are not translated in their entirety but rather checked to see if they meet the eligibility criteria and if so, then the data is extracted. 


FEE BASED_________________________________

Supporting several stages of the review process

  • Covidence - Create and maintain your systematic review throughout screening, selection and extraction phases (starting from $240 per year). 
  • Distiller is designed for screening and data extraction phases of systematic reviews (starting from $15/month for students and $75/month for faculty). 
  • EPPI-Reviewer is a web-based program used to manage your systematic review through all stages of the process from bibliographic management, screening, coding and synthesis (starting from $14/month).
  • CMA (Comprehensive Meta-Analysis) is a software that will compute effect size, treatment effects and create forest plots (starting from $125/year).    
  • SUMARI is (System for the Unified Management, Assessment and Review of Information) is the Joanna Briggs Institute's premier software for the systematic review of evidence. It is designed to facilitate the entire review process, from protocol development, team management, study selection, critical appraisal, data extraction, data synthesis and writing a systematic review report (annual subscription is $130). 

Summarizing articles

  • Scholarcy - an AI-powered article summarizer and a Google Chrome extension. It summarizes research articles, creates interactive flashcards, highlights key points, links to open-access versions of each citation. This extension gives you the key points of any article or research paper you have open in your browser.  It creates a referenced summary with important points highlighted and generates a background reading list for those new to a field. Free with basic features, $7.99/month unlimited access.   

Writing services

  • Paper Preflight - although this application checks for errors and issues with the manuscript for the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases, it will evaluate the paper for free and show the results for a one-time fee of $29.

Author services from Springer Nature

Translation services AND MORE (grant application, protocol development, etc.)


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Disciplinary Resources

Quality Assessment Tools

Quality Assessment and Risk of Bias Tool Repository - a freely available repository of commonly used tools to assess the risk of bias. To best access the tool, follow the steps:

  1. Go to the Files section on the left.
  2. Download the excel spreadsheet. This will allow you to utilize all the functions such as the drop-down filter to limit to a certain study design type (column F).

Risk of Bias Tools Repository (National Toxicology Program, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) - a repository of risk of bias tool providing the tools through Tableau, a data visualization platform. The website offers options to filter the tools alphabetically, by domain name, study design, and research area.


Which one to choose? Read the article below for further guidance.

  • Munthe-Kaas, H. M., Glenton, C., Booth, A., Noyes, J., & Lewin, S. (2019). Systematic mapping of existing tools to appraise methodological strengths and limitations of qualitative research: First stage in the development of the CAMELOT tool. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 19(1), 113. See Additional file 3 for a list of included critical appraisal tools.

  • Zeng, X., Zhang, Y., Kwong, J. S. W., Zhang, C., Li, S., Sun, F., Niu, Y., & Du, L. (2015). The methodological quality assessment tools for preclinical and clinical studies, systematic review and meta-analysis, and clinical practice guideline: A systematic review. Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine, 8(1), 2–10.

  • Seehra, J., Pandis, N., Koletsi, D., & Fleming, P. S. (2016). Use of quality assessment tools in systematic reviews was varied and inconsistent. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 69, 179-184.e5.

Critical Appraisal Tools for Blogs, Podcasts, and Grey Literature