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Writing a Systematic Review

Saved Searches and Alerts

Since reviews can take a long time to complete, it is helpful to save and set up an alert in the databases to notify you if any new articles are added that fit your search criteria. Be sure that if you do include articles from an alert, you are transparent about that step in your reporting.

Within the EBSCO interface, there are several ways to document your search. Set up a myEBSCO account and run your search.


Option 1 

Click the "Share" button at the top-right of search results. Select "Add search to folder" option to save your search terms and limiters in your folder under the section called "Persistent Links to Searches." See the red arrow on the screen shot to the right. 

Option 2

Click the "Share" button. Copy and save the URL in the "Use Permalink" section. This link will allow you to quickly return to and rerun your search. See the purple arrow in the screen shot to the right. 

Option 3 

Create an email alert to be notified of new results that would be included in this search (See the green arrow). 


Option 4

Beneath the search box, click "Search History" and select the search you'd like to save. Click "Save Searchers / Alerts" complete the form on the next screen. Your saved search terms can be found in your folder under the "Saved Searches" section. See the red boxes in the screen shots below.



Exporting Results from Databases

If you are following Cochrane or Campbell guidelines, you will need to keep track of how many total results you retrieve from each database as well as the number of results after deduplication. Good organization and tracking will save you a ton of headaches later in the process. 

When searching multiple databases on a single platform (i.e. EBSCO), that platform will automatically de-duplicate the search results, which means you end up with incorrect numbers if you export them together. To prevent this from happening, you can:

  1. Run your search separately for each database in the platform
  2. Download search results into individual files or email them to yourself in individual emails
  3. Label files by database and date of download
  4. Upload into a citation manager
  5. Create a separate spreadsheet or table (see template below) to keep track of search result numbers at each stage of the proces



Exporting All Results from a Search: Once you have run a search within a chosen database, click the "Share" button and choose the "Email a link to download exported results" option. On the next page, fill out the form and choose RIS format so that result can easily be viewed in a citation manager. You'll receive an email (usually within 10 minutes) with a link that will trigger a download. Download when you get the message, as the links expire within a few days.

Tip: Once you've downloaded these files, save them in a Zotero folder and label them by Database and date downloaded. 

Managing Results with Citation Managers

Citation managers help you organize and prepare your search results for the deduplication process and exporting to your screening software.

There is no "right" or "wrong" way to organize your project. The important thing is that you have an organizational system that works for you and your team and that you are keeping track of the things you will ultimately need to report. Good organization and tracking helps immensely in keeping your original number of search results accurate during and after deduplication. See the image below for an example of how someone might organize various search results from four separate databases. 

If you're interested to use a citation manager to keep track of your search results, check out Zotero. For support in setting up an account and getting familiar with the software, check out our Zotero LibGuide and our step-by-step Zotero tutorial


This guide was adapted from Systematic Reviews by University of Texas Libraries ( which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.