A systematic literature review is one of the most important stages of the CER process, but it’s also time-consuming and labor-intensive.
Literature review software tools make the process a little easier by streamlining the research process, helping in effective data storage, and providing helpful data analysis. No matter how much we wish, literature review software will only automate some of the literature review processes. However, it will help a lot.
So, we put together a guide for you so you can get the most out of them.
Literature review software refers to specialized programs developed to help researchers organize, manage, and analyze research material more efficiently. It’s like having a personal assistant who knows all the greatest research places and can juggle references like a circus act.
These handy tools can help you organize, manage, and analyze papers as you search them. These are amazing when you are going through scientific articles faster than a caffeine-fueled scientist and need a tool to store and sort all of the data you are collecting as you go.
How can literature review software help you: as a cer writer?
Literature review software has a lot of uses for a medical writer or medical manufacturer. Here are the ones we found to be the most helpful.
Efficient Literature Search and Organization:
Some literature search tools allow users to do extensive article searches across different databases, online journal sites, and repositories.
You can use some of these tools to import references, extract key data/tables, and arrange them all in one place. The capacity to search and arrange massive quantities of material systematically and intuitively saves time, to say the least.
Sure, you can use spreadsheets, but you have to log in the articles manually, decide where they go, which parameters to arrange them by AND then arrange the articles.
Anyone who has done that knows how painstakingly long it can be. Given the fact that several literature review tools can automate the arrangement, most people would agree these tools are worth every penny.
Improved Collaboration and Teamwork:
Many literature review software solutions allow several people to work effortlessly together. You can share your work with colleagues and other researchers or ask for experts to help out in the literature review process.
It’s great for the review process as well. Some literature review software lets you leave comments and ideas. You can always go through the process at one go first and then come back and edit as you like.
Citation Creation and Management:
Accurate and consistent citation of all sources is one of those things you really can’t mess with. Fortunately, there are many online sites and web based software that offers to do them for you.
However, going to a website and searching each article you read takes a lot of work.
Most literature review software will automatically produce citations. You can choose whichever citation style (e.g., APA, MLA) you want and easily modify them.
In short, literature review software simplifies citation and reference management for you. And doing so saves your time, which these tools are for.
Data Extraction and Analysis:
Now this is the cream of the crop. The systematic review process is extensive. And while we love reading through the resources, data extraction is only sometimes fun.
Or, to be exact, reading through an interesting journal paper or doing a more detailed search is more fund when the data extraction is taken care of.
Some systematic literature review tools use machine learning for data extraction. You have to choose the journal article, and the software will collect and organize data like research design, sample sizes, results, and conclusions.
You can then use the data to do a meta-analysis or use statistical software to do it for you.
Literature review software is great for screening the papers you collect. A simple keyword search is enough to get some of the sortings out of the way. Nevertheless, for the next step, you will need some systematic review tools.
You see, systematic review software usually comes equipped with advanced search options like these. To support systematic reviews, they allow you to tweak the article inclusion criteria and do some abstract screening.
The best software will help you with protocol development, meta-analysis, keyword highlighting, and even critical appraisal. Some highlight the most important parts of an article so you can read through them faster. Some software has tools for screening literature with various criteria.
Choosing a literature review software
So, how do you choose the perfect software for you?
First, don’t just go and buy the most expensive one. Many of these are monthly subscription based tools, so try a few of them before deciding on one.
Based on what you are looking for, make a list of attributes you would like the software to have. See if you can find all the appropriate tools in one software.
Here are some things you will need to look for to help you manage systematic reviews:
A. Confirm that the software works smoothly with your existing systems. These can be reference management software or document repositories. Seamless fits eliminate data transfer headaches and ensure your work doesn’t take the hit.
B. Look for software with good built-in research tools. The ones that can search across several databases. The ability to conduct complex searches, filter results using the inclusion/exclusion criteria, and obtain full-text articles directly from the platforms streamlines the research process.
C. Choose software with an easy-to-use interface. Research is complex enough without you having to figure out how to use the software.
A well-designed user interface is easy, simple, and saves time. Look for customizable dashboards, simple navigation, and simple search results.
D. Try software that has co-working spaces., especially if you have a large project. Shared libraries, commenting, and annotation features will come in handy when a team is working on a project together.
E. Prioritize software that can work with data. For example, go for software that has data extraction, analysis, and report-creating tools. The more additional tools that allow you to sort your findings, the better.
Remember, the software is there to assist researchers, not replace them. So, you will probably not get all the options you want in one software. However, as any cer writer will agree, anything that helps in conducting systematic reviews a bit faster, more accurately, and without the risk of bias is a good tool.