You’ve had enough. After months of struggling to collaborate with distant colleagues, wasting hours cleaning up data, and feeling like every task is taking way too long, you know you need to find help for your systematic review woes.
Systematic review software helps many reviewers increase the efficiency of their reviews by making it easy to collaborate with peers remotely, reducing the amount of time spent cleaning data, and making complex data extraction much easier.
But there are so many options out there. How will you know which one works best for you?
Make a wish list
Before you even start looking for systematic review software, you should have some idea of what you want to do with it (and what you need it to do). The features and robustness of the different options out there, as well as the specific review challenges they solve, very widely.
Give some thought to how many references you will typically need to manage, whether you need to be able to track the reasons for inclusion and exclusion, and the type of data you will need to extract and include in your reports and analysis.
Taking a little time to consider your needs will go a long way towards helping you narrow down your software choices. Write down your feature wish list.
See it for yourself
Live demos are a great way to get a feel for the features and benefits of the different systematic review software on the market. Many companies are happy to walk you through their software online and answer any questions you may have.
Make sure you’ve got your wish list handy and don’t be shy - this is your chance to make sure the software works for your needs.
If a demo isn’t an option, you may still be able to see the software in action through videos or webinars - consider joining the software provider’s email list to make sure you’re aware of all the resources that are available to you.
Read the small print
It’s standard practice for software providers to require users to accept a license agreement before they can access to the software.
It’s also fairly common for end users to click through these agreements without reading them - yikes.
Most software license agreements are pretty straightforward. They conform to standard and fair business practices, including things like “don’t copy or edit the code” and “follow copyright laws”.
Even so, it’s prudent to make sure you understand the terms and conditions for using the software. Who owns your research project data? Can the software provider share it with others? The answers to these questions may surprise you.
When choosing systematic review software, it all boils down to one question: which one will make your life easiest? Make your list, get a demo, and educate yourself, and you’re well on your way to a more efficient (and maybe even enjoyable) review process.