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Evidence Based Practice: Introduction to Systematic and Scoping Reviews: Documenting your Search

Documenting 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: Pubmed 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 Ebsco, Medline, Scopus, Web of Science, PubMed and Cochrane provide this feature.

Reference Manager Software

One of the key challenges of managing your references is keeping track of them all in an orderly way. Reference manager software can be used for recording and utilising bibliographic citations or references and help manage your references.

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research (See video under tutorials)


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. Access Web of Science via the A-Z Database list to access  EndNote web version (See video under tutorials).

You can also access Endnote desktop version via the A-Z Database list by clicking on EndNote to download the reference manager tool to your desktop. After downloading the software, the first time, you will be prompted to enter a product key. Please contact Anne Moon at or your faculty librarian, when prompted for this code. You can also visit ICS at Student Help Desk to assist you with the downloading process.


Document Your Review

Your systematic review should also include:

  • a PRISMA 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 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.

From Murdock University Systematic Reviews Research Guide