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Systematic reviews - searching for literature: Managing your database results

Exporting references

So when you are happy with your results, you should export them to your bibliographic referencing software library. While you may skim the results in the database or search tool to assess for suitability, you should not begin your selection process here. Selecting references at this point will waste time as you will need to repeat the process for the same references in others databases (there is significant overlap).

De-duplicating results

Bibliographic referencing software

As you search different databases and export results to your bibliographic referencing software library, you will find duplicate results appear. This is because there is some overlap between the database in the journals they index. Bibliographic referencing software like EndNote is designed to find and remove duplicates, which is best done before you start writing. 


A tool such as MySearch which looks across multiple sources may offer a feature to de-duplicate results. My Search offers two ways:

  1. When you export the full set of results from a search, the file you are sent is already (mostly) de-duplicated (recommended method for systematic review searches)
  2. As you click through the results, when you get to about three quarters of the way through, they will suddenly de-duplicate (and the number returned reduce). A tutorial is available on the Health libguide ('Removing duplicates in mySearch tutorial link on the right of this page).

Saving search strategies

You should remember to save search strategies when complete (and sometimes also when incomplete). This enables you to:

  • Work on strategies at a later date (if unfinished)
  • Keep a record of your search strategy.

Note: Numbers of results will change over time so you will need to make a note separately of results returned for a given search on a given date. When saving, made a note of the database you are searching in the title or description field  and also the date of the search. You need to do this because a platform e.g. EBSCO, may offer access to more than one database, and the saved search does not automatically indicate which resources was being used at the time.


Your piece of research will continue over a long period of time. It is useful to be alerted to any new articles that are added to the various databases that would be found if you ran your search again. If you set up your search as an alert, in addition to saving it, it will periodically re-run your search and email you any new additions returned. Saving and alerting features are available in most database platforms.