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Systematic Reviews: Managing search results

Managing your results

This is a vital step in your systematic review because duplicate studies and multiple reports from the same study, if not identified and eliminated, can lead to a skewed systematic review and because you also need to make sure that you only select studies that meet your inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Since systematic review literature searching is likely to produce many results, the only practical way to manage them is by using reference management software. QMU subscribes to EndNote but you can also use Mendeley. Please see our full guide to Referencing which provides in depth advice and videos on all aspects of citing and referencing. 

Given that a comprehensive literature search is likely to retrieve a number of duplicate results, to save you time in having to review and read duplicate records or publications, both RefWorks and Mendeley facilitate the elimination of duplicate references. Please see the de-duplication guides below for details. 

Once you have removed your duplicates, you have to decide whether the remaining results meet the inclusion or exclusion criteria decided upon in your protocol. To review them, read the title and abstract to get a sense of what the article is about and if that does not give you enough information to make a decision, read the full text. You must pay attention to duplicate publication which can not only be identical articles but different publications reporting on the same study and these may be difficult to spot at a first glance. Eliminating duplicate is essential to eliminate bias as duplicate would skew your results. To help you with this, read this paragraph Identifying multiple reports from the same study from the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.

Removing duplicates in RefWorks

There are two ways to check for duplicate references in RefWorks: your entire RefWorks account or a specific folder. In either case, there are two further options:

Exact Duplicates (exact matches of author name, title and year of publication) or

Close Duplicates (a loose comparison of the same elements allows duplicates to be found even if there are minor errors in the data).   

De-duplicate entire RefWorks account

View menu > Duplicates > Exact Duplicates or Close Duplicates.

1. Select the reference you wish to delete by checking the box next to the Ref ID. These selections are not saved when you go to the next page. Make your deletions page-by-page or add the references to delete to a folder before moving to another page.

Note: RefWorks automatically marks duplicates (the most recently added record) for deletion when the duplicate check is performed. If you have more than two copies of the record, only the most recently added record will be marked for deletion.  You can disable this automatic selection in the Customize area under the Startup Options section.

2. Click the Delete icon delete_icon.jpg.

De-duplicate a folder/subfolder

  1. Click the Organize & Share Folders tab (or Organize tab).
  2. Locate the folder or subfolder you with to check for duplicates.  Click the Folder icon to the right of the folder/subfolder name.
  3. Select Duplicates from the option list and either Exact Duplicates or Close Duplicates.

To remove duplicates from the list displayed:

1. Select the reference you wish to delete by checking the box next to the Ref ID. These selections are not saved when you go to the next page. Make your deletions page-by-page or add the references to delete to a folder before moving to another page.

Note: RefWorks automatically marks duplicates (the most recently added record) for deletion when the duplicate check is performed. If you have more than two copies of the record, only the most recently added record will be marked for deletion.  You can disable this automatic selection in the Customize area under the Startup Options section.

2. Click the Delete icon delete_icon.jpg.

Adapted from www.refworks.com/refworks2/Finding_Duplicate_References_In_Your_Account.htm

Removing duplicates

1. Select All Documents in the left-hand panel.

2. Select the Tools menu and Check for Duplicates.

3. A list of duplicate references will be displayed. You can double click a set of duplicates to expand it and view each duplicate document individually.

4. Review the references and choose the details that you would like to keep from each reference by selecting the check box next to each field.

5. Select Merge to keep one merged entry in your library

Adapted from https://library-guides.ucl.ac.uk/mendeley/duplicates