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Systematic Reviews & Evidence Synthesis Methods

A detailed, step-by-step guide to the first several stages of an evidence synthesis review.

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Article Screening

The purpose of article screening to remove studies that are clearly not related to your topic. Use your inclusion/exclusion criteria to first screen the title and abstracts of your studies and determine whether they are relevant to your research question. Once titles and abstracts have been screened, the full text must be retrieved and screened to definitely decide whether the study fits the eligibility criteria of your synthesis.

It is highly recommended that two independent reviewers screen all studies, resolving areas of disagreement by consensus or by a third party who is an expert in the field. Listed below are tools that can be used for article screening.

Tools for Managing Evidence Syntheses

Covidence is an online systematic review management tool that allows for independent title/abstract screening, full text screening, data extraction and risk of bias assessment. Although it is designed for use with systematic reviews, its utility translates fairly well to some other evidence synthesis methods, like scoping reviews. UC Irvine Libraries has an unlimited license to a software to Covidence for members of the UCI community.

The Covidence "Knowledge Base" includes answers to frequently asked questions and training videos.

Exporting Citations from EndNote to Covidence

  1. In Endnote, select all citations you wish to export, and then select "File" and "Export."
  2. Under "Save as type" select "text file (*.txt)" and under Output style select "RefMan (RIS) Export"
  3. Save the file to your desktop
  4. In Covidence, click "Import Studies" and select your RIS file. Click "Import" 

More information about importing references to Covidence. Learn about the new and improved Covidence bulk PDF uploader.

Note: Covidence only accepts RIS and Endnote or PubMed XML format.

Rayyan is a free online tool that can be used for independent screening and coding of studies in an evidence synthesis. Rayyan will pre-populate inclusion and exclusion criteria, but you can customize these criteria. It also uses tagging and filtering to code and organize references. Title and abstract screening can be conducted in one project, while full text screening can be conducted in a second project.

Exporting Citations from Databases into Rayyan

For evidence syntheses, it is recommended to export all of your results into a citation manager, de-duplicate your results, and then export from your citation manager in RIS format.

  • RIS files from Ovid, EBSCO, or Scopus do not successfully import directly into Rayyan.
  • Export your results to a citation manager first and then export from your citation manager in RIS format.
  • Web of Science RIS files successfully import directly into Rayyan.
  • PubMed XML files successfully import Rayyan.



Excel is the most basic tool for the management of article screening. Lists of references can be exported from citation managers into Excel format for screening.

Because it is easy to accidentally overwrite cells in Excel, it is recommended that you keep a clean copy of your exported articles and work only on a copy.