Better, faster, stronger: how to find tools to expedite the systematic review process

Sutton A1, Marshall C2
1School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield, 2York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC)


Time consuming and labour intensive are two phrases often associated with the systematic review process. A focus on automating some of the manual processes, and therefore saving human reviewer time, has become an area of interest for the systematic review community in recent years. New tools to expedite the review process are being developed at a pace, so how do reviewers keep up-to-date with the wide range of software and tools available?


The Systematic Review Toolbox is an online resource of tools to support the systematic review process. We undertook a literature mapping exercise to develop a search strategy that could be used regularly to horizon scan for review production tools, to ensure the toolbox remains current and useful to reviewers. We compare results from the search strategy with other methods of retrieval including handsearching of key journals, consultation with the systematic review community, and monitoring of social media.


The search strategy is regularly run on MEDLINE via OvidSP and results are screened according to the toolbox inclusion and exclusion criteria. We compare the efficiency of the search strategy with utilising the Systematic Review Methods search filter on PubMed, handsearching new issues of the Systematic Review and Research Synthesis Methods journals, tool submissions to the toolbox website or via email to the editors, and monitoring of Twitter for systematic review tools.


We will present the number of new or updated tools retrieved from each information source, along with the length of time between publication and discovery, to measure the efficiency of each retrieval method.


On the basis of the results, we will be able to prioritise retrieval methods for the toolbox and continue to develop this useful resource. The findings may also be of relevance for retrieval of software tools in other areas of healthcare research.

Patient or healthcare consumer involvement:

Improvements in the efficiency of searches to identify new systematic review tools will help reviewers find the latest tools available to make conducting reviews faster and less challenging, meaning ultimately that patients and consumers can benefit from review findings sooner.