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University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Special Education Research

Systematic Reviews


A clear methodology for finding and selecting studies is what makes a systematic review systematic. Your approach needs to be valid and as replicable as possible. So, just where and how you search matters a great deal. When you're new to systematic reviews or are taking on a subject that's new to you, don't hesitate to ask for help from your librarian!

The Database Search Tips guide on the left will remind you of the basics on how to design a good search. Though, with systematic reviews, the ORs matter a lot than that page might imply. Think of ALL the ways authors might describe each concept you're looking for!

Also, be careful not to search for concepts that would be better as inclusion/exclusion criteria or coding categories. Common examples include age/grade level, methodology and fuzzy terms like intervention. Often it is better to search for ALL literature on a topic, and then exclude results that are not interventions, rather than trying to create a search that includes all the terms that could describe types of interventions.

Again, don't hesitate to ask for help!

Tips for Using My EBSCOhost to Manage Results

Create an Account: Because your main search is likely going to be in EBSCO databases, make sure to set up a My EBSCOhost account by following the "Sign In" link at the top of the database screen. 

Save Your Searches: Under the "Share" button, choose to "Add search to folder" by clicking your your keywords. Now, you'll find a record of just where and how you searched in your Folder under the "Persistent Links to Searches" section.

Set up Alerts: Under the "Share" button, choose "Email Alert" and complete the form. Now the system will email you when new results are added that match this search.

Tips for Reviewing Large Sets of Results:

  • Choose to sort by "Date Newest" rather than "Relevancy." That way the system will sort results the same way each time. If reviewing results over multiple sessions, simply note the date you stopped reviewing and start there next time.
  • Under "Page Options," select "Detailed." This will make the abstract appear on the results page.
  • Under "Page Options," select "Results per Page: 50." This will make is easier to get to later results quickly. 

Sorting and Saving Results: 

  • In your Folder, on the bottom-left hand corner, set up subfolders that you can sort articles into from the main results page. Many find the YES, MAYBE and NO folders work well. Things that match your inclusion criteria to into YES.  Things that don't match go into NO. Things you're initially unsure of go into MAYBE, and you can come back to these later.
  • From the main results page, simply click on the blue folder and select a subfolder for each results.  Now you'll have a clear record of each article that you will include and exclude from the study.

Moving Results from EBSCO to Zotero and Excel

Exporting your YES folder into Zotero:

  1. Go you your YES folder (or any other folder of results you'd like to export) and select "articles" to see everything you've saved here
  2. Choose the "Export" link on the right side of the screen
  3. Choose "Direct Export in RIS Format" and click Save. Your broswer will save an RIS file to its default download location.
  4. Open Zotero and choose "File" and "Import"
  5. Browse for and select the RIS file that was exported and downloaded from EBSCO
  6. Zotero will import all citations into a new folder called "Delivery"

Exporting a Zotero folder into Excel:

  1. Select the folder you would like to export to Excel
  2. Right click and choose "Export Collection"
  3. Choose Format: CSV
  4. Click "Okay" save the file to a location you'll remember
  5. Open Excel and start a new workbook
  6. Select the entire worksheet by clicking on the top-left box
  7. Choose "File" and "Import"
  8. Choose "CSV file" > import and then browse for and select the .csv file you saved from Zotero
  9. Choose "Dellimited" > Next > Comma > Next > Finish > Okay
  10. Your article should now appear in a spreadsheet. Now you can delete any column you don't need for coding (there will be a lot of Zotero fields you'll want to erase), and you can add columns for all the factors you'll be coding by.

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