Module 3: Organizing, Managing and Screening Sources

Team Screening for Systematic Reviews

For systematic reviews, it is recommended that at least two reviewers screen the results independently. This is to help resolve disagreement by encouraging consensus and reduce the risk of biased decisions. When needed, a third reviewer can aid in resolving the deadlock.

Screening the Title and Abstract

For the first screening, each member of the team will independently scan the titles and abstracts of articles, and make a decision whether to include or exclude studies. Each reviewer should be asking themselves, “Is there enough information in the title and abstract to exclude this study at this stage?” To make sure both reviewers are on the same page, they will need to ensure they have a clear and pre-defined inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Tips for screening the title and abstract:

  • You can be over-inclusive at this stage.
  • A “maybe” can be a yes at this point.
  • Do not screen for outcomes in the abstract or title.

Screening the Full-Text

The next step is to read the full-text of the articles selected from the first round. Again, the reviewers will do this independently and use the same inclusion and exclusion criteria. This stage involves a more rigorous and in depth look at the articles. The reason for excluding a study must be recorded for reporting purposes. Reviewers can also look at the outcome of a study and determine if it is significant enough to include.

How to screen in a citation software management tool with a partner:

  1. Export your library after removing the duplicates and share it with your co-reviewer. This will ensure both screeners assess the literature independently.
  2. Alternatively, see if the citation software manager allows for annotation. If there is only one field that allows for annotation, then each reviewer should consider a separate coding system for inclusion and exclusion.

How to screen in a systematic review tool with a partner:

  1. These tools allow the owner of the account to invite others to participate in the screening process. They usually allow anonymous screening.



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Advanced Research Skills: Conducting Literature and Systematic Reviews Copyright © 2021 by Kelly Dermody; Cecile Farnum; Daniel Jakubek; Jo-Anne Petropoulos; Jane Schmidt; and Reece Steinberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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