Skip to Main Content


Library provides new tool to speed and improve systematic reviews

Medicine@Yale, 2017 - Apr May


With increasing demand from faculty who want to produce systematic reviews in their fields of expertise, the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library has licensed a software program designed to make the process of evaluating as many as several thousand articles far less onerous.

The software package, called Covidence, became available in September. It is one of several such products that have emerged in the field, and Yale’s is among just a handful of libraries that have licensed it university-wide, according to Holly Grossetta Nardini, M.L.S., associate director of the library.

“Systematic reviews are a hot topic in literature right now,” says Grossetta Nardini, who notes that a systematic review that follows the National Academy of Medicine’s strict guidelines is inevitably an intensive year-long process. The academy’s standards include having two members of the research team, working independently of each other, screen and select—one by one—relevant studies supplied to them by a librarian or similarly trained search specialist.

Grossetta Nardini says the library’s new tool, which even can be used on a mobile phone, makes the process more manageable. “Instead of screening in Excel or Endnote, which is a citation management program, I would say the new system is speeding up the ability to churn through results.”

“It will present each article’s title and abstract, and offer a choice of ‘yes, no, maybe.’ And if two people say no, then it’s out, where if two people say yes, or yes/maybe, it passes forward to full-text review.” Grossetta Nardini adds that the enhanced level of organization the tool provides can also lead to results that are sounder scientifically than many reviews have been in the past. “It helps guide you through proper methodology,” she says. “It forces you to follow proper steps.”

“Covidence is a phenomenal resource to do a rigorous analysis of the literature and to extract eligible studies for a systematic review or meta-analysis. Two reviewers going through the abstracts make it a great learning experience for a resident or fellows to review the literature on the topic in sync with a more experienced physician,” says Ajay Malhotra, M.B.B.S., M.D., associate professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, who has done a number of systematic reviews while at Yale, both prior to the new system and—more recently—using it.

Researchers from throughout the university can obtain access to the system through their librarian.