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Systematic Reviews

Using EndNote for Systematic Reviews

Based on PRISMA 2020 Statement for systematic reviews and meta-analyses, it is essential to keep track of what you are doing by documenting your search process and report it correctly to ensure transparency.

Documentation of your search strategy should include:

  • databases used
  • date of search
  • dates of coverage provided by each database
  • search terms used
  • total publications found
  • number of relevant publications
  • limits applied

Reporting searches

*There are a number of places where searches can be reported. These include the review abstract, the methods section, the results section, or as supplementary material (e.g. the appendix).

The step-by-step on using EndNote for systematic review

Step 1: Build an EndNote Library

  • Create a new EndNote Library (Go to File > New)

Reminder! Two files will be created: .enl  and .data file. These two files must be kept in the same location in order for EndNote to function properly.


Step 2: Organise References
a) Import references

Systematic review searches a wide range of databases. 
The following videos were created by NUS Librarians with EndNote X9. It provides quick tips to import the citations from commonly used databases in systematic review

Export citations from PubMed (4.31 mins)
Export citations from Embase (5.00 mins)
Export citations from the Cochrane Library (5.25 mins)
Export citations from CINAHL (4.43 mins)
Export citations from Scopus (3.28 mins)

Note: The function of importing citation into EndNote X9 is similar to EndNote 20 except for differences in interface appearance.   

b) Create Group Set and Group
After importing the citations to EndNote, you may want to organise the citations for systematic review according to the Group Set and Group:

1. Create a Group Set

Right-click on My Groups > Create Group Set
Name your group (e.g. name after the systematic review topic)

2. Create a Group

Right-click on Group Set > Create Group
Name your group (e.g. the database that you search, PubMed)
Drag-and-drop the citations imported from database into the group.
Repeat the steps to create other groups(e.g. PsycINFO, ASSIA, Scopus)

c) Tag the references and group
For systematic review, it is recommended to tag the references according to the groups you had created as follows: 

1.Go to Library>Change/Move/Copy Fields  
2.Select a field (choose ‘Name of Database’)
3.Under Change (choose ‘Replace whole field with’)
*In the box, enter the name of database of the source (e.g. PubMed)

Tagging is important for the following reasons: 
1. The number of records for each database can be tracked and restored if there are any mistakes made while removing duplicates.
2. Export to Excel spreadsheet using the ‘NUS Libraries Systematic Review Output Style’

Step 3: Remove duplicates
After you have imported the references from each database, it should be recorded in the PRISMA flow diagram (see “record identified from” #1)
The number of references for each database in the Group will change when removing duplicates in EndNote. 
Therefore, before de-duplicate in EndNote, you should rename the Group (Right-hand click>Rename Group) by 

  • Record details of the no of citations within the brackets as shown in the Group (i.e. the original results from each of the databases). 
  • The number of citations will be reflected accordingly on the left pane upon removing duplicates

These numbers will then be recorded in the PRISMA flow diagram. (see “records removed before screening” #2 )

DiagramDescription automatically generated

By default, EndNote is using the following fields to remove duplicates: Author, Year, Title, and Reference Type.  You can go to Edit > Preferences then clicking the ‘Display Fields’ option to change the default if necessary.

* Do note that the EndNote default Find Duplicates can result in missing duplicates! One of the ways is to sort the records in Title field by clicking on the column header. Manually go through records carefully for duplicates not identified due to a dash/comma/space/full-stop in the title field.  You can adjust the width of your centre pane to see all relevant fields clearly to check for duplicate titles.

Step 4: Screen for relevant studies  
Screening is to exclude irrelevant records based on inclusion/exclusion criteria that are listed in the protocol. It can be done in EndNote, Excel OR other screening software such as Rayyan, Revman, Covidence etc 

Reference: King, R., Hooper, B. and Wood, W. (2011) 'Using bibliographic software to appraise and code data in educational systematic review research', Medical Teacher, 33(9), 719-23, 

The following will show two options:
1.    Screening in EndNote 
2.    Export the references from EndNote to Excel for screening

1. Screening in EndNote

Researcher may opt to use EndNote to do the screening. They can make use of the “Group Set”, “Create Group” and “Create from Groups” features provided by EndNote to organise the citations to match the screening process in PRISMA Flow Diagram explained below:

Screening by Title/Abstract
•    Two reviewers will independently screen studies by title/abstract 
•    Annotate/code references for inclusion, exclusion.
•    Record the excluded titles into the ‘Records excluded’ in the PRISMA flow diagram. (see #3)
•    Record the included titles into the ‘Records screened’ in the PRISMA flow diagram.  These articles will be retrieved for full text review later. (see #4)
Refer to the following link from “EndNote Tips for Systematic Reviews” on the screening process at 

Screening by full text  
•    Retrieve the full text articles (refer to steps documented for retrieving full text) 
•    Two reviewers will independently screen the full text by applying the eligibility criteria.  Any disagreement was resolved by discussion or by involving a third assessor.  
•    Work your way through the records moving them to Included and Excluded (etc.) as appropriate,
•    Record the number of citations in the ‘Reports excluded’ with the exclusion reasons in in the PRISMA flow diagram.  In EndNote, you can use groups, custom fields or the research notes field to assist with this.  
•    Record the number of citations included the ‘Reports assessed for eligibility’ in the PRISMA flowchart.

If you need further help on this, please contact the Librarians for more information. You can also refer to the reference below on how to do screening in EndNote:  

  • Bramer, W. M., Milic, J., & Mast, F. (2017). 'Reviewing retrieved references for inclusion in systematic reviews using EndNote', Journal of the Medical Library Association 105(1), pp84–87. doi:  
  • How to Setup EndNote for PRISMA Systematic Reviews  [to move]

See an example on how the no of citations in PRISMA figures from EndNote Library tally with the final data enter in PRISMA (

2. Export citations from EndNote to Excel     
Alternatively, you may also export the citations to Excel for screening.  NUS Libraries has customised the tab-delimited output style to meet this purpose. 
•    First, download NUS Libraries Systematic Review Output Style (NUSLib_SysRev.ens) (NUS Libraries Systematic Review Output Style
•    Next, install it in EndNote (see NUS Libraries Systematic Review Output Style Installation Guide for details).
•    After saving the NUSLIB_SysRev Output Style in EndNote, you need to add this to the Bibliographic Output Style drop down menu.
•    Highlight a reference in your library and click the arrow to expand the Preview panel under the Summary tab 
•    Click on the Bibliographic Output Style box and choose Select Another Style.  Type the name of the output style in the Quick Search box and press enter. Highlight the style you want to use, then click Choose
•    Your reference will then display in the style you have selected.

There are two methods to import data from a text file with Excel:

Method 1(import it as an external data range)  Method 2 (open it in Excel)
•    Go to File>Export to export the citations as a text file
•    Open Excel spreadsheet, go to Data tab>Get Data>From Text/CSV   
•    In the Import Data dialog box, locate the text file that you want to import, and click ‘Import’.
•    In the preview dialog box, select ‘Load’
•    The list of citations will be loaded directly to a new worksheet.

•   Open Microsoft Excel, go to >File>Open and browse to the location that contains the text file.
•    Select the .txt file that you have saved in the Open dialog box.
•    Click Open. Excel will start the Import Text Wizard, Delimited>Next>Tab>Next>Change the 3rd prompt to ‘Text’ and click Finish to complete the import operation.    


Step 5: Cite While you Write 
Refer to EndNote's Cite While You Write (CWYW) function to insert in-text citations in a Word document from the EndNote Library.