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Evidence Synthesis in the Social Sciences

Screen Your Articles

After you run your search strategy, you must save all the results in a reference management system for later screening. As mentioned in the Devise Your Search Strategy section, keep records of how many sources are produced from each search, as you will need to complete a flow chart of your sources and information later in the screening process. 

Saving Your Sources and Removing Duplicates

There are many tools, like reference managers or screening websites, that can be used to screen your articles. The library supports access to several reference managers, including EndNote, which is most popular for evidence synthesis projects. See the below links to explore the various tools and gain more insight into using the tool that your team chooses. 

Reference managers are also essential to an evidence synthesis project because your searches will have produced duplicate articles across different databases. Reference managers have automatic tools to help you remove duplicates from your searches. 

Tools for Screening

The Two-Pass Approach

two stages of screening

"First pass (Title / Abstract).This is where you examine titles and abstracts to remove obviously irrelevant material. At this stage you may not need to provide a justification for your exclusions.    

Second pass (Full text). This is where you examine the full text for compliance with your eligibility criteria. At this stage you must provide reasons why you exclude documents." 

(Graphic and information from UNISA Libraries

Inclusion and exclusion criteria come into play when screening your articles. During the first “pass” through your collected sources, you don’t need to provide rationale for those sources you exclude. 

In the second “pass,” a rationale for exclusion should be added for every article that is not included in the scoping review. These rationales are generally documented in an appendix of a published review. 

It is standard practice that, if there is a disagreement between two team members about whether a source should be included or excluded in the review, a third team member breaks the tie. 

Completing Your Flow Chart

"For ease of reference and tracking, it is suggested that reviewers keep careful records to identify each study. As reviewers chart each study, it may become apparent that additional unforeseen data can be usefully charted. Charting the results can therefore be an iterative process whereby the charting table is continually updated."

- JBI Manual Chapter 11.2.7

It’s important to document the number of sources you’ve gathered at each stage in your search process, and for each database. Standard practice is to complete a flow chart diagram of the numbers of sources you include/exclude at each stage in your search process. PRISMA created a widely-used template that can be used for systematic or scoping reviews. 


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