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Systematic Reviews - Research Guide

Documenting Your Review

Document your search

Your search process must be documented in enough detail to ensure that it can be reported correctly in the systematic review and reproduced for verification.

For each database search you conduct, you should record:

  • the date the search was run
  • the database searched
  • the name of the database provider (for example: ProQuest or EBSCO)
  • your search strategy - include the keywords you used and how these were combined in the search
  • the years searched
  • any filters or limitations used, such as date, language, age or demographics
  • the number of studies identified.

It may be useful to save your search strategies in the databases you use (where possible) to refer back to later. Resources such as Medline, Scopus, Web of Science and Cochrane provide this feature.

EndNote software can also be used to record full bibliographical details for each citation and additional notes relating to the selection and evaluation of that source.

Document your review

Your systematic review should also include:

  • a PRISMA 2020 flow diagram that records the number of articles found, the number of papers excluded - with reasons for exclusion, and the number of articles included and appraised in your systematic review
  • a table detailing the studies included in your appraisal and the main findings of each study.

You may use the PRISMA 2020 checklist to determine if you have fully documented your systematic review. This is a checklist of 27 items relevant to the content of a systematic review and meta-analysis, including the title, abstract, methods, results, discussion and funding.


Look at the Appendix of this article, where search strategies for each databases are detailed.

Michaelis R, Tang V, Nevitt SJ, Wagner JL, Modi AC, LaFrance Jr W Curt, Goldstein LH, Gandy M, Bresnahan R, Valente K, Donald KA, Reuber M. Psychological treatments for people with epilepsy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2020(8).