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Psychology: DClin systematic literature searching: 8. Screening

This tutorial will guide you through the steps required to systematically search for literature for your service-related project and thesis.
Screening is the process of identifying studies that meet your inclusion criteria and eliminating the ones that do not. 

The screening process:

  • Using the title and abstract you need to decide which articles should be included.
  • Decide what is eligible and is to be included and record the reasons why things were excluded.
  • Sometimes you need to see the full text before you can decide if something should be included or not.
  • Decide what you need to find in the full text, if you cannot decide from the title and abstract what should be included. Remember to give your reasons for any exclusions.
  • You will need to critically appraise the results you have found.
  • Now you need to decide what sort of analysis you would do with the results you have found.


link to critical appraisal guide

Systematic review specific tools

The university does not have an institutional subscription to any specialist systematic review tools such as Rayyan or Covidence.

Documenting your search

PRISMA reporting standards require that systematic review authors detail the following information about their search process in their review:

  • Describe all information sources, including databases searched with dates of coverage, detail of any other methods used to identify additional studies) and details of the date last searched.
  • Present the full electronic search strategy for at least one database, including any limits used (this will allow others to replicate your search).
  • State the process for selecting studies for the review (i.e., screening, eligibility).

How to complete a PRISMA diagram

PRISMA is made up of four step, starting with (1) search records and duplicates, proceeding through (2) abstract-level screening and (3) full-text screening, and then (4) the final included studies and reports. 

Flow diagrams can also be generated using an App available at

The first section (under both Databases & Registries and Other Sources) covers the sources of the Records you reviewed.

On the left all databases are listed with the number of Records from each database. Then, the number of duplicate Records (meaning, any Records with matching bibliographic information) that were removed are noted. 

On the right, the number of records from Other Sources, such as Expert Recommendations, are noted, and have their own ‘flow’.

Any records that proceed forward from the Databases and Registries (as in, those that are not de-duplicated out) are sent forward for Abstract Screening.

In this stage, your Exclusion Reasons are applied to any record that is irrelevant to your review, and any record that may, based on Abstract review, be relevant is sent forward for Full Text Screening.

The number of records excluded for each reason is noted in the Diagram, to ensure that the potential exclusions that may be of interest to your reader are traced with respect to why they were not in your review.

Other sources skip this step and go to the full text review. 

Any record that is not excluded at Abstract stage then must have its full text retrieved for Full Text Screening. If the full text is not available the studies can be excluded from your review. 

On the right, any of the Other Sources that were excluded as part of the assessment for eligibility are noted, with the number of reports excluded for each reason.

At the end of Full Text Review process (for both Databases & Registries and Other Sources), the total number of Included reports is consolidated and displayed. This represents the actual publications that you extracted data from, and the Diagram also displays the number of underlying Studies detailed in those Reports. 

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