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Introduction to systematic reviews

Handsearching

This involves identifying the key journals for your systematic review topic and then looking through the tables of contents of every issue.  You will need to consider how many years back you will look and then do this consistently across all the journals that you decide to hand search.  This can be a time consuming process but is recommended for systematic reviews as it can help overcome issues relating to non-existent, incomplete or inaccurate indexing.

Reference list checking

Another useful way of finding relevant material is to check the reference list of articles which are to be included in the review to see if additional material can be located.

Citation searching

Scopus and Web of Science facilitate citation searching. This enables you to link through to publications which have cited a particular article which again can be a useful way of identifying additional material. For an example of this in Scopus, see screenshot below.

Reference list checking and citation searching facilitate chain searching which is going backwards (checking reference lists) and forwards (checking citing literature) in the research chain to identify other relevant literature.

Example of citation searching in Scopus

In Scopus, after you have run your search and have the results, the 'Cited by' field (to the far right of each record) details the number of publications which have cited that particular document. Clicking on the number enables you to see the documents indexed by Scopus that have cited that item.

Screenshot of citation search on Scopus