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Systematic Reviews

Selecting papers to include in your review

Once you have conducted your search you now need to decide on which studies to include in your review.

The next step is to apply the inclusion/exclusion criteria you identified in Step 1: Planning your search - inclusion/exclusion criteria.  Firstly, sift through your search results, reading the titles and abstracts, and selecting those articles that meet your inclusion criteria. The second phase is to read the full text for all those articles selected as it may not be clear from the title and abstract whether they meet all of the inclusion/exclusion criteria.

PEO template to help in the selection of papers:

Inclusion/exclusion criteria Yes No Undecided

(List the criteria for population/problem)



(List the criteria for experience/exposure)



(List the specific outcomes you are looking for)


Type of study

(Note all the specific types of studies you will be including)



1st phase: Yes / No/  Undecided

2nd phase: Yes / No


You have now applied your inclusion/exclusion criteria and have selected the relevant studies to include in your review.  You now need to assess the quality of each study - this process is known as Critical Appraisal.  

You will be required to:

  • determine whether the study is effected by significant bias,
  • assess whether the study is representative of the wider population,
  • whether the statistics are valid.  

There are many tools and help available for critical appraisal:

Using material on this page