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Systematic Reviews & Other Syntheses


Many researchers use citation managers and Microsoft programs to facilitate citation screening or to extract and manage data, but these programs were not created specifically for these purposes. To overcome some of the limitations of these programs, review software and tools have been developed that are becoming more popular than ever. 

In addition to the programs described below, some collaborative networks offer additional tools for reviewers. Check out Cochrane tools and software from the Joanna Briggs Institute.



Queen’s University Library is excited to announce that we have purchased an institutional subscription to Covidence! See the Covidence Institutional Access page for more information. 

Covidence website

"Covidence is a not-for-profit service working in partnership with Cochrane to improve the production and use of systematic reviews for health and wellbeing. As systematic reviewers ourselves, we were frustrated at the systems available to reviewers to produce timely, high-quality evidence - so we've dedicated ourselves to making tools that make systematic reviewing faster, easier and more enjoyable!"

  • Import citations: "Covidence works seamlessly with your favourite reference managers like EndNote, Zotero, Refworks, Mendeley or any tool that support RIS, CSV or PubMedXML formats."
  • Screen titles and abstracts: "Breeze through screening with keyword highlighting & a lightning quick interface. Covidence keeps full records of who voted and also supports single or dual screeners. You can even do it on your mobile when you have a few spare minutes."
  • Upload references: "Transfer PDFs stored in your reference manager to Covidence in a few clicks."
  • Screen full text: "Decide quickly on studies in full text. Capture reasons for exclusion and any notes so you can resolve any disagreements quickly, with a click of a button."
  • Create forms: "Be in control and stay focussed on your PICO question. Customisable extraction forms means you only spend time extracting what you need. It saves you time and money."
  • Risk of bias: "Automatically populate your risk of bias tables by highlighting and commenting on text directly in your PDF. No more cut and paste."
  • Do data extraction: "Extract data efficiently with a side-by-side view of your customised form and PDF. Then, when you’re done, easily compare your form with other reviewers."
  • Export: "Covidence exports to all the common formats so you can continue your review in your preferred software."

View the JBI (Joanna Briggs Institute) and Covidence webinar.


DistillerSR website

Note: Free trials for students are available for the duration of one semester.

"DistillerSR is the the world’s most used systematic review software. It was designed from the ground up to give you a better review experience, faster project completion and transparent, audit-ready results."

  • Load your references
    • Drag and drop from any reference management software
    • Upload references and full text documents
    • Search and import references directly from PubMed
    • Automatically archive all searches
    • Full duplicate detection and removal
  • Create your forms
    • Build intelligent screening and data extraction forms with skip logic, input validation, automatic calculations and data propagation
    • Create reusable form libraries
  • Lay out your workflow and assign reviewers
    • Use any number of forms, in any order
    • Assign reviewers to study stages
    • Set custom inclusion/exclusion protocols as appropriate
    • Configure keyword highlighting
    • Use boolean filters to branch your study
  • Monitor and tune your review
    • Monitor study progress in real-time: reference progress, reviewer/data conflicts, included/excluded reference counts
    • Monitor the review process: Kappa interrater reliability scoring, reviewer participation reports, track time spent by participants
  • Export your results
    • Included/excluded study lists and reports
    • PRISMA flowchart automation
    • Comprehensive data tables
    • Full report customization
    • Single click export to Word, Excel and reference tools


Rayyan website

"Rayyan is a 100% FREE web application to help systematic review authors perform their job in a quick, easy and enjoyable fashion. Authors create systematic reviews, collaborate on them, maintain them over time and get suggestions for article inclusion."

Watch the 4-minute video tour.

Systematic Review Data Repository

SRDR website

"In an effort to reduce the burden of conducting systematic reviews, researchers and developers at the Brown University Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC), with support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), have developed a collaborative, Web-based repository of systematic review data. This resource serves as both an archive and data extraction tool and is shared among organizations and individuals producing systematic reviews worldwide, enabling the creation of a central database of systematic review data which may be critiqued, updated, and augmented on an ongoing basis. This database is freely accessible to facilitate evidence reviews and thus improve and speed up policy-making with regards to healthcare."

Systematic Review Toolbox

Systematic Review Toolbox website

"Systematic reviews are a time consuming, logistically challenging and labour intensive undertaking. These and other challenges have led to the development of various software tools to support the systematic review process. The Systematic Review Toolbox is a community-driven, searchable, web-based catalogue of tools that support the systematic review process across multiple domains. The resource aims to help reviewers find appropriate tools based on how they provide support for the systematic review process. Users can perform a simple keyword search (i.e. Quick Search) to locate tools, a more detailed search (i.e. Advanced Search) allowing users to select various criteria to find specific types of tools and submit new tools to the database. Although the focus of the Toolbox is on identifying software tools to support systematic reviews, other tools or support mechanisms (such as checklists, guidelines and reporting standards) can also be found."


Gates, A., Johnson, C., & Hartling, L. (2018). Technology-assisted title and abstract screening for systematic reviews: a retrospective evaluation of the Abstrackr machine learning tool. Systematic Reviews, 7(1), 45.

Kellermeyer, L., Harnke, B., & Knight, S. (2018). Covidence and Rayyan. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 106(4), 580.

Olofsson, H., Brolund, A., Hellberg, C., Silverstein, R., Stenström, K., Österberg, M., & Dagerhamn, J. (2017). Can abstract screening workload be reduced using text mining? User experiences of the tool RayyanResearch Synthesis Methods, 8(3).

Ouzzani, M., Hammady, H., Fedorowicz, Z., & Elmagarmid, A. (2016). Rayyan - A web and mobile app for systematic reviewsSystematic Reviews, 5(1), 1–10.

Rathbone, J., Hoffmann, T., & Glasziou, P. (2015). Faster title and abstract screening? Evaluating Abstrackr, a semi-automated online screening program for systematic reviewers. Systematic Reviews, 4(80).

Swab, M. (2016). Product review: Mendeley DataJournal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association, 37(3), 121–123.