Software packages specifically designed for knowledge synthesis will typically include a record screening function. This allows more than one reviewer to independently screen the records without seeing other reviewers' decisions to include or exclude studies, and thus avoids bias.
Other tools are also available. The following systematic review captures the tools available as of publication:
The McGill Library supports use of the following tool:
Critical appraisal should involve an assessment of the risk of bias in the relevant studies and may also involve an assessment of how the studies were reported.
As librarians, we are generally not involved in the appraisal process, but we can provide guidance on finding critical appraisal tools if needed. They are generally specific to a given study design or research methodology. The following are some frequently used critical appraisal tools.
Julian PT Higgins, Douglas G Altman and Jonathan AC Sterne on behalf of the Cochrane Statistical Methods Group and the Cochrane Bias Methods Group. Assessing risk of bias in included studies. In Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011). Chapter 8. Available from http://handbook-5-1.cochrane.org
We recommend consulting these prior to starting your own systematic review of intervention studies, as they will draw your attention to important elements in a high quality review.