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Homepage / Systematic Literature Review – Using Excel to help manage references for the systematic literature review process

Systematic Literature Review – Using Excel to help manage references for the systematic literature review process


books open on a desk

What’s the issue?

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. Firstly 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, ABI Inform, Scopus and 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 your inclusion and exclusion criteria, by looking firstly at the title and abstract, and then at the full text in order to identify the final articles. At each stage you will need to be able to note:

  • 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 excellent news is that you can now export all of your references, with abstracts, directly from EBSCO Business Source Complete, ABI Inform and Scopus.  The download option to use for EBSCO Business Source Complete and Scopus is the CSV option. For ABI Inform it is XLS.

Exporting from Ebsco

Exporting from ABI Inform

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.

Other blog posts you may find useful

If you have any comments about this post or would like further help or information please contact MIRC.

Feature image from Pixabay

Mary Betts-Gray

Written By: Cranfield University

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