Systematic reviews

Screen and select publications

Once you have completed your search, you need to go through the results to determine which ones to include in your review. In a proper systematic search, you go through all the results. Since a systematic search is to capture all relevant results, this also means that much of the results will not be relevant. When choosing which publications to include, use your inclusion and exclusion criteria to ensure that the publications meet your defined criteria.

Generally, the screening process is divided into two parts. First assess the material’s relevance (screening for relevance) by first reading titles and abstracts. During the relevance screening, most publications are usually removed. A thorough review process requires two reviewers to be approved. When you have finished the relevance screening, it is time to review the quality of the remaining material (quality assessment). When you assess the quality of the studies, you are expected to read the publications in full. You can choose from a number of checklists that provide suggestions for assessing quality.

Tools for screening for relevance

Appraisal checklists

When using appraisal checklists, it is important to choose a checklist that matches the method and data of the specific article you are assessing. Sometimes you may need to combine different checklists for articles that contain different forms of data and studies. Remember to document the assessment of each article using the appraisal checklist and to save this, so that, at a later stage, you will be able to explain why that particular article was included or excluded.

Here are some suggestions for appraisal checklists for different study types: