Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

Systematic & Advanced Evidence Synthesis Reviews

This page lists commonly used software for Systematic Review's (SRs) and other advanced evidence synthesis reviews and should not be taken as MSU Libraries endorsing one program over another. The sections of the guide list fee-based as well as free and open-source software for different aspects of the review workflow. All-inclusive workflow products are listed in this section.

Online Toolkits & Workbooks

Search Strategies and Citation Chaining

It is highly recommended that researchers partner with the academic librarian for their specialty to create search strategies for systematic and advanced reviews. Many guidance organizations recognize the invaluable contributions of information professionals to creating search strategies - the bedrock of synthesis reviews.

How do you track your integration and resourcing for projects that require systematic searching, like systematic or scoping reviews? What, where, and how should you be tracking? Using a tool like Air Table can help you stay organized.

Citation Management, Deduplication, Bibliography Creation, and Cite-While-You-Write

Having a software program that can store citations from databases, deduplicating your results, and automating the creation and formatting of citations and a bibliography using a cite-while-you-write plugin will save a lot of time when doing any literature review. The software listed below can do all of these functions which are not found in the fee-based total systematic review workflow products.

You could also do most of the components of an SR in these software including screening.

Screening Results

Screening the titles, abstracts, and full text of your results is one of the most time consuming components of any review. There are easy-to-use free software for this process but they won't have features like automatically creating the flow charts and inter-rater reliability kappa coefficient that you need to report in your methodology section. You will have to do this by hand.

Deduplication of results before importation into one of these tools and screening should be done in a citation management program like Endnote, Mendeley, or Zotero.

Creating PRISMA Compliant Flow Charts

Data Analysis & Abstraction

Tools for data analysis can help you categorize results such as outcomes of studies and perform metanalyses. The SRDR tool may be the easiest to use and has frequent functionality updates.

Data abstraction commonly refers to the extraction, synthesis, and structured visualization of evidence characteristics. Evidence tables/table shells/reading grids are the core way article extraction analyses are displayed. It lists all the included data sources and their characteristics according to your inclusion/exclusion criteria. Tools like Covidence have modules to create your own data extraction form and export a table when finished.

Total Workflow SR Products

There are several fee-based products that are a one-stop-shop for systematic reviews. They complete all the steps from importing citations, deduplicating results, screening, bibliography management, and some even perform metanalyses. These are best used by teams that have grant or departmental funding because they can be rather expensive. 

None of these tools offers a robust bibliography creation function or cite-while-you write option. You will still need to use a separate citation manager to do these aspects of review writing. We list commonly used citation management tools on this page.

Using Excel

Some teams may choose to use Excel for their systematic review. This is not recommended because it can be extremely time consuming and is more prone to error. However, there is a basic template for Excel-based SR's online that is good quality and walks one through the entire workflow of completing an SR (excluding bibliography creation and citation management).

Writing a Manuscript