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Searching systematically: Manage and screen your results

How to search systematically, from developing a good research question to managing your search results

What is screening?

Screening is the process of selecting the studies that you will include in your literature review. Ideally, screening should be done by two reviewers and who are blinded - they cannot see each others decisions).The process usually involves two steps:

Select/Reject studies based on title/abstract : it is often easier and faster to start by focusing on your exclusion criteria.

Select/Reject studies based on full text : include studies that match your inclusion criteria.

It is very important to keep track of the number you exclude at each level. At the full-text screening level, it is also common to keep track of your reasons for excluding each paper. The PRISMA Diagram can be used :

Tips for successful screening

Screening will be based on the inclusion/exclusion criteria that you have set when developing your question. You may introduce bias into the final review if these are not used thoughtfully.

It might be a good idea to go through your inclusion/exclusion criteria with your screening collaborator and agree on a list to be used for screening. You might also want to agree on a list of terms that you would like to see highlighted (green for inclusion terms, red for exclusion) in your screening tools



Covidence provides several tutorials on how to use the tool for screening evidence :

Getting started with Covidence



Rayyan is a free, web-based tool that is highly recommended for screening at both the title/abstract and full-text level. Keep in mind:

  • It offers a blinding option when shared with other reviewers. 
  • The deduplication feature is still under development, so first remove duplicates using other software (eg Endnote) before importing results. 
  • Once the title/abstract screening is complete, you will need to copy your included abstracts into a new review, where you will upload PDFs of the full text for the next round of screening. 

National Health Library & Knowledge Service. Health Service Executive. Dr. Steevens' Hospital, Dublin 8. Tel: 01-6352555/8. Email: