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Systematic Reviews: Step 5: Selecting papers and quality assessment

Subject Guide prepared by QUB Subject Librarians that will help you decide if a systematic review is right for your project, and guide you through the systematic review process
Selecting papers

Before you start your selection process, it is important you have de-duplicated your references.  This means identifying and removing any duplicates from your search results.  To carry this out using Endnote please refer to step 4.

Next, apply your inclusion criteria to select studies for your review.

Screening titles and abstracts

This involves reading the title and abstract of your search results.  Your inclusion criteria will be applied to identify studies that are relevant to your review question and eliminates papers that are not eligible.

Obtaining papers

Having screened the titles and abstracts and identified potential studies, you then need to obtain the full text for each reference.  If you find that the library does not have access to a particular paper, please use the inter-library loans service.

Once you have obtained the full text papers, you can then decide if they do in fact fully meet your inclusion criteria and exclude those that do not.  When you have completed this process you will be left with the final number of studies to include in your review.


PRISMA is an evidence-based minimum set of items that helps reporting in systematic reviews.  More information can be found on this webpage.

The PRISMA flow diagram describes the steps you have taken and provides information on the different phases of your review.   It details the number of records identified, included and excluded, and the reasons for exclusions.

Quality Assessment

In this stage, you will examine the quality of the studies you have identified for your review.  You will critically appraise the research and assess if they can be deemed reliable and whether or not they are relevant to your review question.

The areas for consideration include study design, conduct and analysis, likelihood of bias and relevance of results.

Quality assessment tools are available online.  Some sources include:

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are a number of tools available so you will have to choose the most appropriate for your research.