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Systematic Review


PRISMA  (Preferred Reporting Items of Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses) provides guidelines for conducting and reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses.  It incorporate advances in systematic review methodology and terminology.

Further reading

Liberati, A., Altman, D. G., Tetzlaff, J., Mulrow, C., Gotzsche, P. C., Loannidis, J. P., Clarke, M., Devereaux, P. J., Kleijnen, J. & Moher, D. (2009). The PRISMA Statement for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies that evaluate health care interventions: Explanation and elaboration. British Medical Journal, 339, Article b2700.

Software & online tools

Systematic review toolbox - search for tools/software for systematic reviews using this web-tool 

Covidence: Web-based review platform for screening and data extraction. Subscription required, but is free to Cochrane Review authors. A free trial is available for non-Cochrane Review authors which enables you to complete 1 full review, with up to 500 records. Covidence demo (video). Training materials:

Rayyan: Web-based review platform for screening and selecting studies (not full data extraction). Access options: free for three reviews or subscription charge for full access and all features.  Training materials:

RevMan: a Cochrane Review Manager. Web-based platform, now requiring an individual subscription to use. Update your profile to student or early career professional for a discount. You can do a free RevMan trial to create a practice review to try out RevMan features.

Abstrackr overview: a free software for screening abstract and citations. Abstractr Login page.


JBI SUMARI: web-based tool for systematic reviews. 

NVivo: analysing data and identifying patterns for qualitative researches.  AUT PG students can request NVivo software via ICT Services.

OpenMeta[Analyst]: Note: this download has a Trojan virus warning, the developers (Brown University) say this is a known issue, but please proceed with caution.  

OpenMeata is an "open-source software for performing meta-analyses of binary, continuous, or diagnostic data, using a variety fixed and random-effects methods, including Bayesian and maximum likelihood analysis" 

OpenMEE: free software for ecological and evolutionary meta-analysis

PRISMA flow diagram generator 

Systematic review data repository plus: a free tool for extraction and managing data


Vosviewer: use this tool for visualising bibliometric networks, clusters of studies, etc.

Reference management software


EndNote is useful in managing records for systematic reviews.  You can:

  • Add record details of where reference was obtained (the database, date, search)
  • Check and remove duplicates 
  • Annotate/code references for inclusion, exclusion, and background 
  • Export references for screening in tools such as Rayyan or Covidence 
  • Share your EndNote library with co-authors working on the review with EndNote App & EndNote Online
  • Conduct a frequency analysis of keywords in your library using Terms List & Subject Bibliography tools to improve the search terms used

Recommended steps when using a reference management software for your review

Step 1: Create a new EndNote library for your SR project.

Step 2: Refine your keywords and search selected databases.

  • Import the search results from a database, e.g. Scopus, into this EndNote library. The references will appear in Recently Added.
  • Create a group set "Databases". Under this groups set, create groups for each database, e.g. Scopus, that you will use for your SR.
  • Copy the references from Recently Added to this Scopus group. The references will still be in ‘All References’.
  • Repeat this process for all databases required for your SR project.  
  • Notes: Create a Grey literature group if needed.  

Step 3: Create an inclusion group.

  • Move all the references from All references into this inclusion group.  
  • During the screening process, you may want the Inclusion group to have subgroups for the reasons according to your inclusion criteria. An Inclusion group set may needed for organising these groups

Step 4: Remove duplicates.

  • Create a Duplicates group.
  • Highlight all references in the inclusion group, Click References in the menu > Find Duplicates.
  • Cancel the pop-up box for choosing a preferred reference. The duplicates should appear in a temporary Duplicate References folder. Move the references in this temporary folder immediately to the duplicates group you have created.
  • Select all references in the Inclusion group, go to the References menu > Find Duplicates
  • Choose a preferred reference from the pop-up box, repeat this until all duplicated references have been checked. All duplicates will be deleted from the Inclusion folder after this process.

Step 5: Create Exclusion groups.
Create exclusion groups according to your exclusion criteria, for example, year, language, age, etc. These can be grouped under an Exclusion group set.

  • Screening titles and abstracts in the Inclusion group: you may create a style to display title and abstract only for this process, otherwise just going through each record to decide which references will be exclude. Drag these references to the appropriate Exclusion groups depending on your reason or criteria for exclusion. Delete these references from the Inclusion group.
  • Locate full text articles for the references in the Inclusion group
  • Screening full text of each articles and decided which articles will be excluded. Moved these references to the appropriate Exclusion groups depending on your reason or criteria for exclusion. Delete these references from the Inclusion group.


      You will now be able to list the databases, number of records found for your search for each one, the number of duplicates, the number of excluded articles and the reason, and you will be left with an Inclusion/included folder or group of articles that you intend to evaluate for use in your review.

 Additional guides:

Mendeley and Zotero

Mendeley and Zotero can be used for systematic reviews in a similar way to EndNote as described above.

Group sets are not available but you can organise folders, groups or collections to follow the same process.