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Systematic Review Guide

This guide will help you navigate how to create a systematic review.

Reviewing and Weeding Articles

A minimum of 2 reviewers must read and separately make a decision on each abstract. Each reviewer must individually, without influence of another, decide if each abstract should be included (Yes), excluded (No), or needs further examination of full-text or discussion (Maybe).Using a software/website specific for this purpose is helpful. Some are freely available online, like Rayyan. Others are paid software, like Covidence. Covidence gives each individual one free review.

The decisions of the paired reviewers should be compared when completed.

  • All double "No" articles are excluded at this point. (COUNT THESE! If possible, record the reasons for exclusions, i.e., absent outcomes, wrong population, etc.)
  • All double "Yes" articles are put aside in an inclusion category (COUNT THESE!)
  • All double "Maybe" articles are carried through to the full-text round.
  • All disagreements are discussion and decisions made to place the articles in one of the 3 categories.

Switching Off Blinding

During the screening process on Rayyan, blinding is on.  This means each reviewer can only see their own decisions, and cannot view the decisions made by other reviewers.  Before the process of resolving conflicts can be started, blinding needs to be switched off, which can only be done by the review owner (the person who originally created the review in Rayyan).  

Resolution of Conflicts

Once blinding has been switched off, reviewers are able to see those articles where there is currently disagreement by selecting "Conflicts" in the left hand bar.  As agreement is reached on each article, it is then a simple matter for the relevant reviewer to change their opinion.  

(From University of Hawai'i at Manos John A. Burns School of Medicine Libguide)


Systematic Review Software

Rayyan- Free tool to help researcher select studies to include/exclude in their reviews. 

Zotero - Free tool to help researchers collect, organize, cite, and share their research.

  • Organize references by category and across categories from the most popular electronic databases, including EBSCO, IEEEXplore, JSTOR, Google Scholar, ProQuest, PubMed, and many more. It also works with most major journal publishers, including Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Project MUSE, ScienceDirect (Elsevier), SpringerLink, Taylor and Francis, and many more. (via
  • Track web-based references.
  • You can also enable the retrieval of PDF metadata, which allows you to create citation records just from dragging a PDF into Zotero. Once in Zotero, you may search terms within the full-text PDFs of each collection. 
  • Here's the quick start guide.
  • 300 MB free.
  • Work from any computer. Sync your Zotero library and have access from any computer with an internet connection. Switch from your computer at home to a campus computer seamlessly. 
  • Click and drag citations for thousands of different formats to websites, papers, and blog pages. 
  • Click here to view the NYIT Zotero guide

EndNote - Paid citation manager

  • Organizes citations and finds PDFs for you throughout your search process.
  • Quick citation and bibliography format/re-format.
  • Good for systematic reviews.
  • Can attach PDFs, but does not allow for annotations.  

Mendeley- Free reference manager

  • Free to everyone.
  • Desktop software for Windows and Mac; option to sync with web account.
  • An attach and annotate PDFs.
  • Can share with a group of 3 for free.
  • Free online storage up to 2,000 MB.
  • Here is the quick start guide. 
  • Search full text feature allows you to easily find PDFs within your Mendeley library.

  • Click here to view the NYIT Mendeley Guide

Learn How to Use Zotero

  • Zotero is a free-open source software tool managed by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.
  • A citation and research tool that allows you to collect, organize, and cite sources from across the web.
  • A free, open source research tool that can be downloaded as a stand stand-alone application and added to Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer as a web browser extension.
  • Zotero can detect and add full-text articles in your library with a single click. 


What Zotero can do for you: 

  • Collect, organize, and cite pdf’s, journal article, periodicals, images, audio, and videos. ​

  • Allows you to add content with a single click with your browser extension.

  • Extract reference information, such as author, title, publication, and year.

  • Generate abstract reports.

  • Take screenshots of websites.

  • Export information as a formatted citation to word processing application in MSword, Google Docs, and Open Office.

  • Keep your information up to date by syncing your desktop application with your web account.
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