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Homepage / Systematic Literature Review – Managing duplicates

Systematic Literature Review – Managing duplicates


One of the questions which often comes up when discussing the SLR process is how do I manage my references in the most efficient way during the process of going from my search results to my final list of articles?

Each step of the SLR process has its own challenges. You need to identify your keywords, then construct your search strings, then work out the combinations of the search strings and which databases to use e.g., EBSCO Business Source Complete, ProQuest One Business, Scopus, Web of Science, in order to retrieve the articles which are key to your research topic.

Not all the articles retrieved will be relevant and you will need to filter your initial results sets according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria you defined in your protocol. You will begin by screening the title and abstract against your inclusion and exclusion criteria, and then against the full text. At each stage you will need to document:

  • how many articles there were
  • for each of your search string combinations
  • from each of your chosen databases.

Sounds simple enough, until you realise that there will inevitably be duplication between the sources…

The good news is that you can export all of your references, with abstracts, directly from each of these resources.  The download option to use for EBSCO Business Source Complete and Scopus is the CSV option. For ProQuest One Business it is XLS and for Web of Science it is Excel.

EBSCO Business Source Complete

Add your search results to a folder. Then go to your folder, select all the articles and use the Export function to export your results to a CSV file. Once exported, save your results as an Excel file.

ProQuest One Business

You can add your search results to a folder in ‘My research’ or export your results to Excel direct from the search results page. To do this, click on the three dots (ellipsis) to open the ‘All save & export options’ and select the XLS Microsoft Excel Format. Note you can export up to 100 articles at a time.

Scopus and Web of Science

You can export your results direct from the results page of both of these indexes by selecting the Export option and following the instructions given.

Once you have downloaded the information into Excel, you can then use the power of Excel to help you tag, filter and sort your references so that you can easily identify duplicates and also keep track of which references were found in each database.

ExcelDemy provides further guidance on how to use Excel to remove duplicates, which you may find useful.

Other blog posts you may find useful:

Because of the complexity of this process, we recommend that before embarking on a systematic literature review you speak with your Librarian who will be happy to provide guidance.


Image by kirill_makes_pics from Pixabay

Mandy Smith

Written By: Mandy Smith

Mandy has worked for Cranfield Library Service since 2004 and is a Research Support Librarian supporting researchers and research students at Cranfield Defence and Security and the School of Management. She teaches a range of study skills as well as helping researchers use the resources they need to find information. She provides advice and support on REF and funder compliance, open access publishing and other research-related topics.

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