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PIECES: Systematic Review Process
Evaluating the Studies
In the Evaluating stage, the review team will collect and screen the studies while documenting decisions.
- Collect all records of studies retrieved from database search, hand-searching, reference lists of included studies, and other sources into one place (e.g., shared citation management or SR management tool).
- Preferably three reviewers, with the third acting as a tiebreaker, should independently screen the studies by title and abstract, collect the full-text relevant studies, and then independently review the remaining studies by inclusion/exclusion criteria in the full-text.
- Document decisions to include or exclude for reproducibility and accuracy; the study selection process will be included in the final report. This stage refers to item 9 in the PRISMA Checklist for systematic reviews -- Study Selection: "State the process for selecting studies (i.e., screening, eligibility, included in systematic review, and, if applicable, included in the meta-analysis)."
Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG, The PRISMA Group (2009). Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses: The PRISMA Statement. PLoS Med 6(7): e1000097. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed1000097
Screening Process Training
At the Evaluation stage, reviewers should screen titles and abstracts of collected studies; included studies should then be screened by eligibility (inclusion/exclusion) criteria identified in the full-text.
Eligibility criteria identified in the protocol in the Planning stage should guide reviewers' decisions. This webinar describes the importance of eligibility criteria, provides guidance for defining eligibility criteria for the screening process, identifies issues with the screening process, and provides strategies for reducing screening conflicts and increasing screening accuracy.
As a systematic management tool, Covidence provides a platform for reviewers to independently screen results at multiple stages of the evidence-synthesis reviews. The Covidence Webinar Series from Cochrane Training describes the steps for each stage of the review in Covidence. See the following tutorials for screening process instructions.
Reviewers who have registered a protocol with Cochrane and plan to publish a Cochrane systematic review may use Review Managers (RevMan) to prepare and maintain their review.
Article Management and Screening Resources
Reviewers collaborating on a systematic review or other evidence-synthesis project will need to manage relevant studies and document decisions in one place. The following tools and programs assist in multiple stages of the evidence synthesis process, including the screening stage.
- Covidence [institutional access for all FSU affiliates]
User-friendly systematic review management tool that allows reviewers to conduct title/abstract screening and full-text screening, among other processes, in one place. One free personal review. FSU offers institutional subscription with unlimited reviews. To access: 1) Create a Covidence account with your @med.fsu.edu or @fsu.edu email; 2) Request an invitation to join FSU's institutional subscription. Note: Clerkship faculty can request an invitation by emailing email@example.com.
EndNote is a citation management program that reviewers can use to import references from multiple databases; organize and manage references; and format bibliographies and manuscripts. Note: FSU College of Medicine affiliates may download and install EndNote desktop. Please see the Medical Library's EndNote guide for more details.
An open source abstract review tool created by Brown University, Abstrackr is a free program that reviewers can use to facilitate citation screening for systematic reviews. The program will allow participants to collaboratively screen and annotate abstracts for relevance.
- Excel Templates for Searching and Screening
Publicly available templates for documenting your search and the numbers for your PRISMA tree, as well as templates for title/abstract and full-text screening, provided by the University of Texas.
This fee-based online application is designed to assist with abstract and full-text screening,among other review processes.
Rayyan is a free systematic review management tool designed to help researchers working on systematic reviews and other knowledge synthesis projects. Rayyan's platform allows research teams to collaborate, screen, and select studies.
More free systematic review tools are available online. You can search these tools and find associated articles through the Systematic Review Toolbox.
- SR Toolbox
A comprehensive list of systematic review tools. You can select a tool based on the part of the systematic review you are working on, the cost, discipline, or the underlying approach.