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Systematic Reviews & Evidence Synthesis Methods

Managing Results

Saved Searches and Alerts

Since reviews can take a long time to complete, it is helpful to save and set up an alert in the databases to notify you if any new articles are added that fit your search criteria. Be sure that you think through your cutoff date for your alert. At some point, you do have to publish.

The tabs in this box give step-by-step instructions on the most-used database platforms.

Be sure that if you do include articles from an alert, you are transparent about them in your reporting.

Note: Librarians recommend that you create logins for your chosen databases and save your searches from the start of the project so that you don't lose any work as you develop your search strategy.

Within the EBSCO interface, there are several ways to document your search. Set up a myEBSCO account and run your search.

Option 1 

Click the "Share" button and click your linked search terms (in the "Add Search to Folder" option). This records your search terms and limits in your folder under the section called "Persistent Links to Searches." See the red arrow on the screen shots to the right. 

Option 2

Click the "Share" button. Copy and save the URL in the "Use Permalink" section. This will allow you to quickly return to and rerun your search. Note: Any newly added articles that match your search criteria will appear. To be aware of those new additions, set up a search alert to be notified of new results. See the green and blue arrows in the screen shot to the right.

Option 3

Beneath the search box, click "Search History" and select the search you'd like to save. Click "Save Searchers / Alerts" complete the form on the next screen. Your saved search terms can be found in your folder under the "Saved Searches" section. See the yellow arrows in the screen shots below.





In the Web of Science interface, there is one Save search exampleprimary method to document your search. You will need to have created and be signed in to your Web of Science account and ensure that you have run your final search protocol... 

Once you have the final search you'd like to save, click "Create an alert" on the left side of the page. A dialogue box will appear asking you to name your alert. The option to download your search string will appear once you have successfully created the alert. You can also manage it by selecting "Searches and alerts" from the menu above the search results. 

Alert created screenshot

In the PubMed interface, there is one method to document your search. This is completed by saving it and creating an alert. You need to have created an account with My NCBI and be signed in to that account. You will want to save the results once you have your search string fully formulated, but saving it at stages in the search string development is advised as well.

**Note that PubMed no longer automatically saves your history beyond a day or two. To save searches for later refinement, download your search string. This can be completed from the advanced search page.

Once you have executed your search, click on the "Create Alert" icon directly below the search box. 

Create Alert Screenshot


Saved search screenshotYou'll be directed to the "Saved Searches" page where the options for saving searches and setting up email alerts on a set time schedule are controlled. 

Compendex, Inspec, and GeoRef are all on the Engineering Village platform.  Here are instructions from the publisher on saving a search:

You can save a search query for future use. Once you save a search, you can view, rerun, modify, change the name, or delete it.

First, you must have created an Engineering Village account and have signed in to save searches.

  • You can save searches from the Search results list and Search history.
  • You can access your saved searches from the ‘Alerts and Saved searches’ page.
  • You may create email alerts from your saved searches on the ‘Alerts and Saved searches’ page.
  • You can have a total of 260 saved searches and email alerts at once.
  • Email alerts are messages sent every Friday after each weekly database update that contain any new records matching a saved query. The total number of email alerts that you have created displays to the right of the ‘Alerts’ tab in the Engineering Village navigation bar. Alerts will be sent even when there are zero results.

Create a "Keep Me Posted Alert" -- as provided by SciFinder staff


A Keep Me Posted (KMP) alert searches for new answers to a previous search query.

NOTE: You can create Keep Me Posted alerts for reference and substance searches, but not reaction structure searches.


  1. Perform the search operations that you want to capture in the Keep Me Posted alert.

  2. Click Create Keep Me Posted AlertTIP: If the icon is dimmed, it means that you cannot create an alert based on the operations for the current answer set. You might be able to create an alert from a previous answer set in the breadcrumb trail. To go back to a previous answer set, click the breadcrumb entry.

  3. Specify the options in the Create Keep Me Posted Profile dialog box.
    • Title identifies the alert. This field is required.

    • Description describes the alert. This field is optional.

    • Duration specifies when the alert will expire. By default, the alert will expire in one year. To change the Duration, click Change. You can set the alert to expire in 1, 3, 6, or 12 months.

    • Frequency specifies how often the alert will run. Select Week or Month from the drop-down menu.

    • When Exclude previously retrieved results is unchecked, the Keep Me Posted results will include new records that have been added since the alert was last executed, plus any records previously retrieved that have been updated. When the option is checked, the Keep Me Posted results will include only new (not updated) records.

    • NOTE: The Search summary describes the operations that will be performed when the alert is run. You cannot change the search operations described here. To create a Keep Me Posted alert with different operations, you must create a new alert.

  4. ​​​​​​​Click Create.
  5. To request e-mail notification of KMP results, click Preferences in the upper-right corner of the page. On the Preferences page, check the option to Receive e-mail notification of Keep Me Posted results.
  6. You must have a current e-mail address associated with your SciFinder account. Click Add or update e-mail address if needed.

SciFinder e-mail notification


Exporting Results from Databases

If you are following Cochrane or Campbell guidelines, you will need to keep track of how many total results you retrieve from each database as well as the number of results after deduplication. Good organization and tracking will save you a ton of headaches later in the process. 

When searching multiple databases on a single platform (i.e. EBSCO), that platform will automatically deduplicate the search results, which means you end up with incorrect numbers if you export them together. To prevent this from happening, you can:

  1. Run your search separately for each database in the platform
  2. Download search results into individual files or email them to yourself in individual emails
  3. Label files by database and date of download
  4. Upload into a citation manager
  5. Create a separate spreadsheet or table to keep track of search result numbers at each stage of the process

Exporting All Results: Once you have run your search within your chosen database, click the "Share" button and choose the "Email a link to download exported results" link. On the next page, fill out the form and choose RIS format so they can easily be viewed in a citation manager or be imported into other screening tools (Covidence, Rayyan, etc.). You'll receive an email (usually within 10 minutes) with a link that will trigger a download. Download when you get the message, as the links expire within a few days.






Tip: Once you've downloaded these files, save them in a folder and label them by Database and date downloaded. When it comes time to report, you'll be glad you did.


Exporting Items Selected for Inclusion: If you have done your sorting and screening in EBSCO and created a folder of the articles selected for inclusion, items in that folder can easily be exported for use in citation managers and Excel.

Go to your folder. Click the subfolder you'd like to export. Click "Articles" to go to those results. Select all results. On the right, click "Export". Choose the format you'd like to export. RIS (EndNote and Zotero) and CSV (Excel) are generally the most versatile.


Once you've executed a search and want to export the searchExport citations example results, click "Export to Other File Formats." A dialog box will appear with a few selection options including the number of results to export (limit 1,000), record content, and the format of the export. Select your full results set (not just the current page), the "Full Record" option, and  "BibTex" as the file format.

Clicking the "Export" button at the bottom of the dialog box will trigger a download of all the items to your computer. These items can then be imported into a citation manager of choice. 

Export dialog box

More than 1,000 results: In Web of Science databases, users are limited to downloading 1,000 citations at a time. This means that if the results exceed 1,000, you'll need to process the downloads in increments of 1,000 manually. In other words, after downloading 1 - 1,000, move on to 1,001 - 2001, and then 2,002 - 3,002, and so on and so forth until you capture all of the search results. 

Once you have your search string in order and would like to export the results from PubMed. Click "Send to" and "Citation manager" from the drop-down menu. This will prompt an export screen, from which to select the number of citations to include in the export. Once that selection is made, click "Create file." This will prompt a download to your computer in nbib file format. This format is compatible with major citation managers including Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote. 

Citation manager export

Create file example

Compendex, Inspec, and GeoRef are on the Engineering Village platform.



Download Documents

You may download documents by clicking the download icon (to access the "one-click download" feature) or the down arrow located to the right of the download icon from any of five different sources within Engineering Village:

  • Search results list
  • Selected records results list
  • Folders results list
  • ‘Abstract’ record page view
  • ‘Detailed record’ record page view

Download document(s) from the Search results list

  1. Perform a Quick or Expert search.
  2. From the Search results list, click the check box(es) of the document(s) you want to download.
  3. Click the download icon or the down arrow to the right of download icon. Depending upon your current download preferences, your document(s) will be downloaded.

Download document(s) from the Selected records results list

  1. Perform a Quick or Expert search.
  2. From the Search results list, click the check box(es) of the document(s) you want to transfer to the 'Selected records' page. The total number of documents you have transferred to the 'Selected records' page will display in a bubble to the right of 'Selected records' tab at the top of the Engineering Village page.
  3. Click 'Selected records'.  The 'Selected record' page opens.     
  4. Click the download icon or the down arrow to the right of download icon. Depending upon your current download preferences, your document(s) will be downloaded.

Download document(s) from the Saved folders results list

  1. Click 'More' at the top of the Engineering Village page and scroll down to 'Folders'.  
  2. Click 'Folders'.  The 'Folders' page opens.  
  3. From the View column on the Folders page, click the 'Records' link to see the saved documents contained in the folder you selected.  The folder page you selected opens.  
  4. Click the download icon or the down arrow to the right of download icon. Depending upon your current download preferences, your document(s) will be downloaded.

Download document(s) from the Abstract or Detailed record views

  1. Perform a Quick or Expert search.
  2. From the Search results list, click a record's title or the ‘Detailed’ link for a record.  The applicable record page view opens.  
  3. Click the download icon or the down arrow to the right of download icon. Depending upon your current download preferences, your document(s) will be downloaded.

SciFinder provides this information:

References can be exported to several file formats, including those readable by citation management software.

On the References page, check the selection boxes for the references that you want to export, or you can export all of the references by either checking all of the boxes (Select All) or unchecking all of the boxes (Deselect All).

SciFinder export step 1

Click Export.

Scifinder export step 2

In the dialog box, under Export, select whether to export All the answers, only the answers you Selected, or a Range of answers that you will specify.

Scifinder export step 3

Under For, select the file type. The file type that you select affects the fields that will appear under Details.

Scifinder export step 4

Enter the data for Details.

Click Export.

Similarly, you can export a single reference on the Reference Detail Page by clicking Export.

Managing Results with Citation Managers

Citation managers help you organize and prepare your search results for the deduplication process and exporting to your screening software.

There is no "right" or "wrong" way to organize your project. The important thing is that you have an organizational system that works for you and your team and that you are keeping track of the things you will ultimately need to report. Good organization and tracking helps immensely in keeping your original number of search results accurate during and after deduplication.

Image of folder structure in Zotero

(sample organizational structure in citation managers)

Once you've got your organizational structure in place in Zotero, you can easily export in a variety of formats depending on what software you intend to use next in the process.

To do this, right click on the folder you're working with and choose "Export Collection". Select the file format you'd like to export (RIS and CSV are most common). Select OK and choose where you'd like to save the file.

Once you've got your organizational structure in place in Endnote, you can easily export in a variety of formats depending on what software you intend to use next in the process.

Highlight the group you want to export, and then choose "File" and "Export". Name your file and choose where you'd like to save the file. Save file types as "Text Only" and choose an output style. "RefMan (RIS) Export" will be a file type that works with other citation managers and many systematic review screening tools. It will save as a .txt file, but you can swap the .txt. with .ris and the file can readily be imported into Zotero, Rayyan, etc.

Exporting to Excel from EndNote is complicated. Guidance from the company can be found here. Another option is to export your .ris fle from EndNote, import that file into Zotero, and then export a .csv file from Zotero. This process will typically create a fairly clean Excel file.

Video - Systematic Review Automation Tools (27:38 minutes)

This video covers:

  • SR Accelerator (free): Polyglot Search Translator - translates your search statement between databases 
  • EndNote (or the citation manager of your choice)
  • SR Accelerator (free): Deduplicator - removes duplicates from your set of citations
  • Rayyan (free):  Blinded reviews - allows you plus other reviewers to read abstracts to determine which articles are in/out
  • SR Accelerator (free): SpiderCite - searches article references and also cited by references

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