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Step 5 Screen literature and assess quality of studies

Screening the studies

The final search results obtained via databases etc are screened for eligibility in accordance with the inclusion/exclusion criteria.

This should be done independently by 2 reviewers to avoid bias.

Firstly, titles and abstracts of all de-duplicated records are screened for eligibility. Results are compared and disagreements resolved among reviewers.

Secondly, the full text articles of the selected studies are then assessed for eligibility for inclusion in the review. 

Assess risk of bias in included studies.

Tools such as EndNote, Covidence and Rayyan can be used to store citations and manage the workflow of the screening process.

There are a number of Critical Appraisal Tools to assist in this process such as:

Prisma flow diagram

A PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta Analyses) diagram is used to show the steps involved in the review process, recording the number of records identified and then excluded at each stage of the screening process.

You can also use the PRISMA Flow Diagram Generator to produce a detailed diagram in a number of output formats.

Software and tools for screening

There are a number of tools that can assist with managing records during the screening process of a systematic review. See the list here for more detail.