Updating systematic reviews and meta-analyses, the easy way

Cecile Janssens
5 min readFeb 11, 2021

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are valuable evidence reports that get outdated when new studies become available. Keeping track of the literature is warranted but time-consuming. There is an alternative that works well for many updates.

What are the chances that researchers of a new study don’t cite the original review or any of the studies included? It’s possible, but it’s reasonable to expect that the better studies cite relevant previous studies. It’s just a lot of work to track all citations to all articles. Until now.

CoCites extracts the citations and reference lists of many articles at once and is therewith ideal for updating systematic reviews and meta-analyses. It’s as easy as a few steps and several mouse clicks. The search requires free registration. Here is how it works.

The steps

1. Identify the systematic review.

On your My CoCites page search for the review and add it to a new query set. Go back to the My CoCites page to find the new query set. The My CoCites page and other advanced features are available after (free) registration on the CoCites website.

2. Select the articles from the review.

Click the arrow under the title to show its references. Select all relevant articles and add them to the same query set. You can also select and add them all and then remove irrelevant articles (see recommendations below).

3. Select the search options.

If the number of articles in the query set is small, say, lower than 20, and don’t have many citations, then opt to show all articles, including those that only cite one article from the query set. If you are only interested in newer studies, then you can filter the search results to exclude articles published before the review. Leave unchecked if you want CoCites to find older articles too.

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Cecile Janssens

Professor of epidemiology | Emory University, Atlanta USA | Writes about (genetic) prediction, critical thinking, evidence, and lack thereof.