Using automation tools to improve the speed of searching for studies for a systematic review

Core Methods Workshop

Workshop category: 

  • Searching and information retrieval
Date and Location


Thursday 24 October 2019 - 11:00 to 12:30


Contact persons and facilitators

Contact person:


Clark J1
1 Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare, Bond University, Australia
Target audience

Target audience: 

Information Specialists

Level of difficulty: 

Type of workshop

Type of workshop : 



Background: to improve speed and quality, methodological innovations and automation tools have emerged to support many steps in systematic review (SR) production. One of the first steps of an SR is to search the literature for studies. Although guidance exists to assist the search process, there has been a lack of recent technological innovations in SR searching. As the automation of SRs increases, search tools are starting to be developed and used more often. To support the adoption of new tools into SR searching, the following workshop is being proposed.

Objectives: to demonstrate how new search tools can be used to help improve the speed of conducting the search for a SR.

Description: the workshop will focus on four tools that focus on searching and reference handling that can be used to conduct a systematic review.

Two tools can help in constructing the search and building a range of methods for the search strategy, including the examination of key terms from by reading titles and abstracts of known relevant articles.

1) The Word Frequency Analyser counts the number of times keywords appear in the title, abstract and keywords fields of articles to help identify key terms that can be used in a search strategy.

2) The Search Refiner determines how many key articles from a validation set are found by each term in a search, as well as the total number of articles, and visualizes it as a term map, allowing users to modify the search and see the impact on recall and precision from removing any of the terms.

After constructing a search, it is important to translate that search to run in additional databases, as a minimum, Cochrane CENTRAL and Embase. The third tool can aid in this process by automatically doing some of the translating.

3) The Polyglot Search Translator is a database search converter, translating search strategies from PubMed or Ovid Medline to multiple databases.

After running the search through multiple databases, there are always duplicated search results. Examining these results and removing the duplicates manually is a time-consuming process. The tool below can automatically remove most duplicates with no concern that unique articles will be lost.

4) The SRA Deduplicator automatically detects and then removes duplicate records from search results

To fully engage with the workshop it is recommended that participants bring a laptop.