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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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Citation Management

A citation management program will save you a lot of time when doing your evidence synthesis. Programs like Endnote, Zotero or Mendeley will store and organize the citations collected during your screening, de-duplicate the results and automatically format in-text citations and bibliographies in your manuscript.

Visit UCI's citation management webpage for a good overview of these programs. You may download Zotero and Mendeley for free, while Endnote has a one-time charge. All three services charge for storage over a certain capacity.

For a very detailed comparison of these three major citation management tools, see the University of Maryland's citation management tools guide.

Citation Management Tips

Once you've finished translating your search strategy to the syntax of each database you're searching, you will then:

  1. Run the search in each database.
  2. Export the results as a BibTeX, MEDLINE, RIS, or XML file and save those files.
  3. Import those files into a citation management program.

Exporting Citations from PubMed toEndNote

  1. In your search results, click “Send to” in the upper right corner of the page, then “File”.
  2. Under “Format” select “MEDLINE” and “Create File”.
  3. Save the MEDLINE.txt file to your desktop.
  4. In Endnote, Go to “File” and “Import” and then select “Import Option – PubMed (NLM)” and choose the MEDLINE file from your desktop.


You will likely retrieve multiple versions of the same study as you search many databases and will need to de-duplicate your results before article screening. After you've performed your searches and imported the results into your citation management software:

  • In Endnote, from the menu select References -> "Find Duplicates".  Select which duplicate record to keep by selecting "Keep This Record"
  • In Zotero, click on the "Duplicate Items" collection in your library. You can resolve duplicates by merging the files. 
  • In Mendeley, select your folder of interest. Go to your Tools menu and select "Check for Duplicates". Select the details that you would like to keep from each of the documents. Click merge to create one entry containing the complete document details.
  • Covidence also automatically de-duplicates your results.  Find out more about Covidence de-duplication. 

Video: Tools for screening and organization (4:34 minutes)