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Systematic Reviews

Resources for planning and conducting a Systematic Review of the literature.

Bibliographic Software

A systematic review requires collaboration of multiple authors who review citations exported from each database into a bibliographic management tool such as RefWorks or EndNote.  Organization of citations in RefWorks can follow the PRISMA Flow Diagram which depicts a natural flow of citations, starting from raw numbers of retrieved results to the final set of articles included in the systematic review.

Organizing Citations in RefWorks for the Systematic Review

The RefWorks folders in this chart organize RefWorks references according to the PRISMA 2020 Flow Diagram. For simplicity in this example, the reviewer searched two databases: PubMed and CINAHL (labeled "1...') and no registries (e.g.,, but this can be customized depending on the research question. The references from these two folders are then added to the "2 Merged" folder where deduplication is completed. Each reference from "2 Merged" is then screened by title and abstract for inclusion or exclusion and added to the appropriate "3 Abstract" folder.  PRISMA 2020 distinguishes between records (i.e., the database record with title and abstract) and reports (i.e., the full text of the article). Reports for each of the "3 Abstract include" references is sought and assessed for eligibility and assigned to the appropriate "4 Report" folder.  The folder "4 report include" consists of the final set of citations in the systematic review. In some cases multiple reports will be published from a single study; provide the total number of studies included in the review, too.

Create folders to follow PRISMA 2020. Include the number prefixes.
RefWorks folder name  PRISMA Flow Diagram Label
1 Scopus
Records identified from databases
2 Merged Subtract before and after numbers to get:
Duplicate records removed
Also, final count is:
Records screened
3 Abstract include Reports sought for retrieval
3 Abstract exclude Records excluded
4 Report unretrievable

Records not retrieved
Also, subtract from records sought for retrieval to get:
Reports assessed for eligibility

4 Report exclude Reports excluded
4 Report include Reports included in review
Studies included in review



Mapping those 8 RefWorks folders to a PRISMA Flow Diagram: 

          PRISMA 2020 example


Data Extraction and Management Tools