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Systematic Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and other Knowledge Syntheses

Screening process

Screening process

There are many resources that explain how to go about screening. One place to start is the guide on Screening Studies created by the librarians at the University of Toronto.

These librarians have also compiled example screening templates available in Open Science Framework.

Screening resources

Screening resources

Screening tools

Software packages specifically designed for knowledge synthesis will typically include a record screening/study selection 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.

The following systematic review addresses how text mining is being used in the screening process:

Useful resource to identify screening tools:

PICo-based title-only screening method for scoping searches and rapid reviews

See: Rathbone J, Albarqouni L, Bakhit M, Beller E, Byambasuren O, Hoffmann T, et al. Expediting citation screening using pico-based title-only screening for identifying studies in scoping searches and rapid reviews. Syst Rev. 2017;6(1):233. 

Rayyan for screening

Rayyan for screening

The McGill Library supports the use of Rayyan through the following guide. Please note that the McGill Library does not have a subscription for this resource:

Critical appraisal and tools to identify risk of bias

Critical appraisal and risk of bias tools

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 suggested tools but this list is not exhaustive and they may not have been validated.


Repositories or collections of tools:


Other tools for specific contexts not necessarily covered above:

Reporting guidelines:

  • Reporting guidelines: See the EQUATOR Network for guidelines relevant to specific study designs such as randomized controlled trials (CONSORT), systematic reviews (PRISMA)

Resources on synthesizing findings

Resources on synthesizing findings

Narrative synthesis

Thomson H, Campbell M. “Narrative synthesis” of quantitative effect data in Cochrane reviews: Current issues and ways forward [Internet]. Cochrane Learning Live Webinar Series 2020 Feb. 

  • Part 1 helps navigate some of the confusion over the concepts of "narrative synthesis" or "qualitative review of (quantitative) data" versus the ambiguous use of the terms "narrative review" or "qualitative review"

Campbell, M., McKenzie, J. E., Sowden, A., Katikireddi, S. V., Brennan, S. E., Ellis, S., Hartmann-Boyce, J., Ryan, R., Shepperd, S., Thomas, J., Welch, V., & Thomson, H. (2020). Synthesis without meta-analysis (SWiM) in systematic reviews: Reporting guideline. BMJ, 368, l6890. doi:10.1136/bmj.l6890

Network meta-analysis

Hoaglin DC, Hawkins N, Jansen JP, Scott DA, Itzler R, Cappelleri JC, et al. Conducting indirect-treatment-comparison and network-meta-analysis studies: Report of the ISPOR Task Force on Indirect Treatment Comparisons Good Research Practices: Part 2. Value Health. 2011;14(4):429-37.

Contact us


Due to a large influx of requests, there may be an extended wait time for librarian support on knowledge syntheses.


Find a librarian in your subject area to help you with your knowledge synthesis project.


Or contact the librarians at the
Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering

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