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Systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis projects

To Do during this step

  • Re-run your search
  • Use PRISMA to report search
  • Write!
  • Submit review to journal

Re-run your search

The systematic review process often takes a year or more to complete. If it has been over a year, your searches should be re-run and any new records should be screened and, if appropriate, incorporated into your review. There may not be many, or even any, but it is best practice to check. Many journals require that SR searches be run within a year or even 6 months of submission.

If you are using Covidence, you can upload the new results and it will automatically de-duplicate them against your previous results, leaving you with just the new ones (if any) to screen.

If you are using EndNote, you can isolate the new results using these steps:

  • Create a new group for conducting this step
  • Copy the de-duplicated results from your initial run of the searches into this new group
  • De-duplicate the results from the updated run of the searches using the same method as you used on the initial run
  • Copy the de-duplicated results from the updated run into the new group
  • Run your de-duplication steps except instead of deleting one copy of the duplicates, delete both copies.
  • What remains after de-duplication should be only the new results.

Report your processes

For writing your search methodology, refer to the PRISMA-S extension. This extension will help you present your search process in a way that is complete and reproducible. The explanatory paper provides examples of how to report the elements of the search methodology as well as the items to report. As a result, following the PRISMA-S extension may make your search methods easier to write as well as more complete.

Most systematic reviews follow PRISMA for reporting their process. If you are using PRISMA:

Writing your review

Sections of a Systematic Review Manuscript

Title Describe your manuscript and state whether it is a systematic review, meta-analysis, or both.
Abstract Structure the abstract and include (as applicable): background, objectives, data sources, study eligibility criteria, participants, interventions, quality assessment and synthesis methods, results, limitations, conclusions, implications of key findings, and systematic review registration number.
Introduction   Describe the rationale for the review and provide a statement of questions being addressed.
Methods Include details regarding the protocol, eligibility criteria, databases searched, full search strategy of at least one database (often reported in appendix), and the study selection process. Describe how data were extracted and analyzed. If a librarian is part of your research team, that person may be best suited to write this section. 
Results Report the numbers of articles screened at each stage using a PRISMA diagram. Include information about included study characteristics, risk of bias (quality assessment) within studies, and results across studies.
Discussion Summarize main findings, including the strength of evidence and limitations of the review. Provide a general interpretation of the results and implications for future research.
Funding Describe any sources of funding for the systematic review.
Appendix Include entire search strategy for at least one database in the appendix (include search strategies for all databases searched for more transparency). 




  • Design Help Desk at the Research Commons: Consultations on creating visual elements such as figures, diagrams, data plots for publications and presentations
  • Writing consultations (grad students only): This service is geared towards grad student writing dissertations or articles for publication

Publishing your review