Documenting each step of your systematic review is of the utmost importance. The PRISMA Checklist helps teams determine what they should keep track of, but teams should also determine how they plan to keep track of data.
For the search process itself, the following things should be recorded to ensure that your searches are truly replicable:
- The databases the searches were run in. This should include the database (ex: MEDLINE) and the database provider (ex: Ovid).
- The dates the searches were conducted.
- Who conducted the database searches.
- The full search strategies for each database.
- Information about any limits that were utilized, such as date or language limits.
- Information about whether the search was saved to a team members' account, and what name the search was saved as.
- The number of citations retrieved from each database before deduplicating.
- The total number of citations left after deduplicating.
UT Houston has a great set of Excel workbooks that serve as templates for keeping track of this information. They are linked below.
Keeping Track of Citations
Conducting a systematic review involves keeping track of thousands of citations. We highly recommend using bibliographic software for this task. Bibliographic software helps organize citations, remove duplicate citations from your database searches, and can help you once you begin writing your final report by formatting your in text citations and bibliography.
Examples of bibliographic software programs include RefWorks, EndNote and Mendeley. Treadwell provides RefWorks at no cost to the MGH community.
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Data Extraction and Aggregation
There are software programs (both free and proprietary) available that can assist your team in screening citations, extracting data, and aggregating data. A searchable database of these programs is available from "The Systematic Review Toolbox," linked below.
You should utilize a standardized form or spreadsheet for data extraction. Some example templates are below.