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Documentation is essential as you work throughout a scholarly review. The process can take months if not years, so documentation makes the creation of a manuscript or presentation much easier, particularly when describing your methodology.

Templates and Checklists

Regardless of whether you're using PRISMA, JBI, or Cochrane, each organization has a variety of templates and checklists to guide your process. Use these to help document each step of your review, creating your final product as you go. This is particularly true for your search strategies.

Official Search Strategy

PRISMA has a checklist just for reporting your search strategy for your systematic or scoping review. This can help guide your process as well as your documentation.

Search Records

One requirement of a systematic review or a scoping review is that they be replicable. Because of this, it is required that you record your search. This record does not have to be included in the appendices of your review, but you do need to have if asked for.

The easiest way to accomplish this is via an Excel or Google worksheet. See example below:

example of a recorded search using microsoft excel

This differs from an official search strategy in that an official search strategy is a far more detailed account of how a search was formulated and run across an individual database.


Creating a protocol before diving into your scholarly review allows the team to plan through the entire process before getting started, from searching and creating inclusion and exclusion criteria to creating a plan for extracting and synthesizing your data.

In theory, registering your systematic or scoping review with a repository plants a flag in the topic that lets others know you are already researching it. In addition, it is required if you are doing a systematic review with the Joanna Briggs Institute. Following the PRISMA guidelines for either type of review would create a 1-2 page protocol that would help you plan out your process. There are multiple places to register your protocol.

Registering a Systematic Review

Free Registration Sites for Systematic Reviews

Registering a Scoping Review

Free Registration Sites for Scoping Reviews

Whether it's for a systematic or scoping review, if you decide to register your review, per PRISMA protocols you will need at least one official search strategy from one database. Your librarian can help with this.