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Dissertation Subject Guide

including systematic reviews, literature reviews and scoping reviews

Screening papers

When you have carried out your searches, the next step is to select which studies to include in your review.

You need to collate all the records from each database you've searched. Then you can start excluding irrelevant papers to reduce the amount of studies to a manageable number. The easiest way to collate this information is by using a PRISMA flow diagram. (Although primarily used for systematic reviews, the flow chart can be adapted for literature reviews scoping reviews etc. too). Text in flow diagram boxes is editable to suit your needs.

Always keep in mind your inclusion and exclusion criteria.

1. identify and record how many records you have gathered from databases & record number of studies excluded at this step (top boxes in flow diagram)

2. screen results (middle box section in flow diagram)

  • by title of studies & record number of studies excluded at this step
  • by abstract & record number of studies excluded at this step
  • retrieve full text of studies & record number of studies excluded at this step
  • read remaining studies

3.  and only include eligible studies

Creating a PRISMA diagram


The downloadable PRISMA diagram can be adapted and edited to suit your needs.

Alternatively Flow diagrams can also be generated using a Shiny App available at


Hints & Tips

You can use Endnote (or other reference management tools) successfully to identify numbers from each database and use to decrease records through PRISMA process.

Always take screenshots or photos of your numbers before excluding duplicates and irrelevant records.