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Systematic Reviews: Conduct Screening

Step 4: Conduct Screening

Use the inclusion and exclusion criteria defined in your protocol to remove studies that are not relevant to your topic.  The first phase of study selection is the title/abstract screening, then the full text must be retrieved and screened to decide if the study should be included in your review.  The standards dictate that at least two independent reviewers screen studies, resolving areas of disagreement by consensus or a third party who is an expert in the field.  The University of Melbourne has a visual representation of common inclusion/exclusion criteria

Title/Abstract vs. Full Text Screening

Study selection is typically a multi-stage process in which potentially eligible studies are first identified from screening titles and abstracts then assessed through full-text review. Title/Abstract screening allows reviewers to quickly exclude large a large quantity of articles that are clearly off-topic due to content, study type, language, or other previously determined exclusion criteria. The full-text search is then used to review the full content of all remaining articles to determine validity for inclusion. 

Title/Abstract Screening

  • Completed before full-text screening
  • Reviewers only review title and abstract to determine inclusion or exclusion
  • Used to quickly eliminate articles that are clearly not topical, are an excluded study type, are in an excluded language, etc.

Full-Text Screening

  • Completed after title/abstract screening
  • Involves reading the entire article to determine inclusion/exclusion
  • Must provide reasons for exclusion in full-text screening

Screening Tools

Screening tools are used to help organize, manage, and track the large volume of articles that are returned in systematic review searches. It is important to remember that all screening tools used (Rayyan, Endnote, Abstrackr, etc.) must be cited and described in the review methods

Often, multiple tools will be used concurrently. For example, citations may be stored in Endnote, but deduplicated via SR Accelerator, and then screened in Rayyan. Therefore, it's important to document what tools are used and how they are used during the screening process so it can be accurately represented in your methodology.


Additional Tools

Learn More About These Tools



A stand-alone deduplication tool included in a suite of systematic review tools

  • More sensitive than Endnote
  • Commonly quicker deduplication process than Endnote
  • Automates the process more by ranking articles by unlikely to highly likely duplications
  • Still requires the use of Endnote or another citation manager to generate .xml file and manage citations
  • Only does deduplication


A citation management tool with a built-in deduplicator

  • All citation management and deduplication can be done using this one tool
  • Less sensitive than SR Accelator's Deduplicator
  • Does not rank citations based on likelihood of duplication
  • Up to reviewer to do most work by hand

Templates & Tools

Data Assurance Tool

REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) can be used to manage a systematic review and other evidence syntheses data. REDCap is available at UK's Center for Clinical and Translation Science (CCTS). Learn more about accessing UK's REDCap here:

In REDCap, researchers can create questions based on the review protocol since it defines how data will be extracted and what information will be gathered. REDCap allows for the programming of questions, which allows for standardization and assurance of data extraction among multiple reviewers. The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) provides a resource, Using REDCap for Systematic Reviews, that provides tips for using REDCap to manage data for a systematic review

Standards & Guidelines