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Systematic review guide: Documenting the search process

Documenting the search process

Systematic review searches must be documented in sufficient detail to allow others to be able to assess the thoroughness of the search. You will need to keep track of:

  • Each database searched, together with the platform searched via (eg. OVID Medline, OVID PsycINFO, CSA Sociological Abstracts)
  • The date each search was conducted and updated
  • Subject headings and keywords used - including whether terms were exploded, truncated etc
  • Any limits applied and justification for their use 
  • Search history, including the combination of terms
  • The reuse or adaptation of existing search strategies and search filters and acknowledge them
  • Number of results retrieved for each search and combination
  • Total number of records 
  • Duplicates identified and software used
  • Numbers pre-screening and post-screening

In addition, all searches conducted via handsearching must identify the source (name of journal, conference proceedings, etc), plus the years.

These key PRISMA documents are recommended to meet documenting and reporting standards.

Endnote is a useful tool to use when managing your records whilst undertaking a systematic review. 
The guide below provides some useful tips including:

  • Downloading database records
  • Adding text to multiple records simultaneously
  • Customised fields
  • Attaching files and using the find full text feature
  • Checking for updates to records
  • Backing up
  • Duplicate checking
  • Creating a file for importing records to Covidence


Are you new to using Endnote?  Visit the Endnote 20 guide to learn how to use Endnote.