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Systematic Reviews: Evaluating

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.

More free systematic review tools are available online.  You can search these tools and find associated articles through the Systematic Review Toolbox.

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