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Systematic and systematic-like review toolkit

Toolkit of resources to support researchers in the development of systematic and systematic-like reviews

Step 3: Screening tools

Systematic ReviewIntegrative ReviewRapid ReviewScoping Review

Screening is the process of identifying studies from the literature search for inclusion in the review.

PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses) is fast becoming a standard for reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses, but is also used with other review types.

It includes a procedural checklist, and a flow diagram to illustrate the screening process.

Tools to manage the screening process

Consider using one of the tools below to manage the screening process.

  • EndNote (Deakin supported) 
    Export searches to an EndNote library.  Create groups to screen citations against inclusion and exclusion criteria, then populate the PRISMA flow diagram.
  • Covidence (Deakin supported)
    Cochrane-recommended web-based software that streamlines the production of systematic reviews. Allows importing of citations, management of screening by multiple reviewers, data extraction and data export. Deakin has a license for Covidence and for more information go to the Covidence page.
  • Rayyan (free)
    Web based collaborative application facilitates team screening, including the upload of citations and  recording of the decisions behind the screening process. A mobile app allows you to screening articles any place. Read the Rayyan for Systematic Reviews guide for further advice on this tool.
    When exporting from EndNote, choose the RIS format to import into Rayyan.  More instructions are in this EndNote guide.



When working with Deakin subscribed material (for example, PDFs of journal articles), please ensure that you comply with all licences, terms and conditions.  This applies to all screening and reference management tools, particularly when storing copies of articles.  Articles cannot be shared with non-Deakin staff or students.

The screening process

Systematic ReviewIntegrative ReviewRapid ReviewScoping Review

Your review protocol developed at the beginning of your review will have outlined inclusion and exclusion criteria.  These will form the basis of the screening process.

Begin by screening titles and abstracts to remove obviously irrelevant material. At this stage you may not need to provide justification for your exclusions.

You will then need to examine the full text of an article for more detailed screening against your eligibility criteria. At this stage you must provide reasons why you exclude documents.


  • appropriate study population (age, geography, illness)
  • appropriate intervention/method/measurements
  • comparable environment/ population 
  • language - can the article be sourced/translated in the language required?

When reviewing the full text of the article, consider:

  • appropriate method/measurement
  • appropriate sample size
  • duplication of data  (avoid counting the same data twice)
  • access to data not included in the article if required

Using review teams to reduce selection bias

Systematic ReviewIntegrative ReviewRapid Review

A team of at least two or three reviewers is important for the screening process to reduce the risk of selection errors and selection bias.

Reviewer teams should:

  • have a good knowledge of the topic for fast and accurate screening
  • prepare for screening by doing a pilot screen to establish themes or possible difficulties          
  • work independently during the screening process to avoid influencing other's decisions

The review paper should detail how many reviewers screened and the process used for resolving any disagreement.

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Further Readings