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Systematic reviews: Managing your search results

A quick guide to introduce you to systematic reviews

Saving searches

Most databases will allow you to save your search strategy and results, but often you will have to set up an account on the database platform before you can do this. Setting up accounts on each database you will be searching will allow you to save results, as well as easily re-running the search at a later date. 

In addition to saving your search strategy online, it is highly recommended that you keep a record of the search strategy and number of results retrieved for each database searched. 

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).

Citation management

It is recommended that you use reference management tools to manage the process of screening, documenting and referencing.  You can set up folders within your reference management software to manage your search process. Try setting up folders to organise the studies you find and make the screening process easier.

A number of different tools are available:


EndNoteX9 desktop is installed on the public cluster PCs across our campuses. It is covered by the University’s EndNote Site Licence, which allows installation of the software on any University-owned PC at no further charge per copy. Students may purchase personal copies of EndNote at a discounted rate by logging into IT Services list of Frequently used software and following the instructions online.

Easy to follow instructions are available to help you set up an Endnote X9, Premium or Basic online account. Online training and help materials are available.

The Information Specialist Team at the University of Exeter Medical School have produced short tutorial videos on the process of screening studies using Endote which you may find helpful.

This article provides an introduction to article screening using Endnote:

Micah D. J. Peters (2017) Managing and Coding References for Systematic Reviews and Scoping Reviews in EndNote, Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 36:1, 19-31, DOI: 10.1080/02763869.2017.1259891


Is a free reference manager and an academic social network designed to help researchers find and work with collaborators. Although you do have to download the program, it is free and web-based. This means you are not restricted to working on any single computer and have access to your data from anywhere in the world as it is stored remotely. Although you can link to any of the usual sources for your bibliographic data, the program extracts metadata from any documents you download and allows you to search the full text of PDFs you have collected. Guides to using Mendeley can be found here.

Access Mendeley here.

For more information about referencing and tools to support this, please see the referencing guide.


Rayyan is a free to access tool specifically created to support the screening process as part of systematic reviews. It allows collaboration between multiple authors and is designed to allow blinded screening of references.

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