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Intro to Review Literature

Search Alerts

A search alert is like saving a search, except that you give an additional command for how the search is to be re-run. The alert notifies you when the search has been re-run, and delivers only the new results.

Elizabeth While has created a guide to creating search alerts in several databases. See it here.


If you are working on a traditional narrative review, your needs will be simpler than for a systematic review. For a literature review, you will likely only need tools available from within databases and a citation manager. Larger projects have more tasks.

Tasks and some methods:

  • Development of search strategy
    • Personal notes - Organization and note software, ex: Evernote
    • Individual accounts in databases, ex: EBSCOhost saved histories
    • Permalinks to searches, ex: EBBSCO Permalinks, Clarivate
  • Identification of articles/store results
    • Citation management program
  • Screening/application of criteria
    • Combination of software, ex: Google Forms to spreadsheet
    • Designated systematic review software, ex: Syras, Rayyan, etc.

Citation management

Database individual accounts (e.g., ProQuest folder, EBSCOHost folder)

  • Manage citations
  • Save searches (Boolean and search sets)
  • Access full text via database HTML links, or linked PDF files
  • You cannot link or save PDF files that aren't in the database record
  • You can send citations to citation management programs
  • You can create a rough bibliography (not in text) citation for pasting into a document

Citation management programs

  • Manage citations in a personal database
  • Insert formatted citations (both in text and bibliography) into your word processing program
  • Change citation styles throughout a document
  • Attach files to references (types may vary according to the manager)
  • All have some type of sharing, but details and maximum number of users vary according to the manager

RefWorks: A cloud-based system (log in online)

  • Works with Google Doc and Microsoft Word

EndNote: A client-based system (downloadable program) with a cloud space for back-up.

  • Works with Microsoft Word and other traditional client-based word processing programs
  • Manual or automatic sync with the cloud space

These two systems are fully supported by UGA Libraries. Get them for free through UGA Libraries. You can get one-on-one assistance and training from a UGA Librarian. There is also a toll free technical support number.

Mendeley: A client-based system (downloadable program) with cloud space for back-up.

  • Works with Microsoft Word ano other traditional client-based word processing programs
  • Contains user profiles, and allows you to browse or follow users
  • Has a free tier and a pay tier
  • NOT supported by UGA, but some librarians or faculty may have expertise


Systematic review software

Systematic review software has changed over the years. Previously, you had to depend on departmental access to software that would cost several hundred dollars. Now that the software is cloud-based, tiered payment systems are now available. Sometimes there is a free tier level, but costs go up for functionality, number or users, or both. Depending on the organization's model, payments may be monthly, annual or per project/review.


  • Always check your departmental resources before making a purchase.
  • View all training videos and other resources before starting your project.
  • If your access is limited to a specific amount of time, wait to purchase until the appropriate work stage.


  • UGA Libraries does not currently provide access.
  • Librarians are not trained in using systematic review software.

Combining free software

Example: EndNote -> Google Forms -> Excel

In this example, a faculty member is keeping track of search strategies in an Excel file. Each strategy has a number. The citations pulled for each strategy are placed into EndNote X7 Groups for organization. He creates a separate group for all search strategies in order to use the "Find Duplicates" feature. This is one way to do this. This example used a much older version of EndNote. In the newer EndNote versions, you can also use Group Set titles to see a total for the sets in the group. This will allow you to highlight references for "Find Duplicates". However, there may be reasons to keep duplicates in a separate set. Ask a librarian who is also a citation management trainer for advice with workflow.

The video also shows using a Google Form to streamline and standardize analysis notes. Many of your librarians are familiar with Forms and with a UGA program called Qualtrics. Discuss additional software and programs with your librarian.

Sample of video starts at 3:41, but you are welcome to select "Play from beginning" for the entire video.