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Nursing 561


The PRISMA Flow Chart is a process showing how you searched for and then filtered down your search results. This process is used when conducting a systematic review. Though this assignment is not as comprehensive or intense as a systematic review would be, it will give you the chance to use this process on a smaller scale. You will search for articles, and then document how you exclude articles from your final selection. The general process looks something like this:

  1. Search for articles, and then remove any duplicates.
  2. Looking at the articles titles and abstracts, exclude articles based on your screening criteria (you decide what this criteria is).
  3. Retrieve the full text of your remaining records. If you are unable to get the full-text of any articles, you would document this.
  4. Read your remaining full-text articles, and then run them through your exclusionary criteria again. 

So let's break down the flow chart, line by line.


For the Identification section, you will run your search using your search strategy (including any keywords, subject headings and synonyms)

  • Databases "n" = the number of reports you found in databases. 
  • Registers include clinical data registries -- these have information about studies, but might not include a traditional full-text article (like you would find in a database). An example of a registry would be You are specifically using journal articles for this assignment, so your answer will most likely be (n = 0).
  • For the Records removed before screening section, you'll want to remove any articles from your list that are automatic "no's." You will remove any duplicates from your results, as well as articles that you can immediately tell don't fit your base parameters. At this point in the process, you will be removing articles from consideration by using filters (i.e., articles that are over 5 years old, are in a foreign language, etc.); you won't need to dig into the article abstract yet (that comes later).
  • Wondering how to remove duplicates? This is really simple if you are using systematic review software, but you probably won't be using that for this class. Instead, we suggest either using a citation management software (like Zotero) or exporting to Excel to accomplish this. You can see details on how to accomplish this on the next page.


For the Screening section, you will be digging further into the records to decide whether it is worth keeping. 

  • Records screened refers to the new number of results you are working with; this is the number of records minus the records excluded in the last step.
  • In the Records excluded step, you review the abstracts of each citation and think about what factors would make an article ineligible for your research question.
  • Some examples of exclusionary criteria could include: studies that upon closer investigation are covering the wrong population, are outdated, not peer reviewed, are written in a foreign language, are not the correct study type or have a poor design, etc.
  • These exclusionary factors are up to you to decide, and should be based on your specific research question. 
  • Records sought for retrieval is your new total (records screened minus the records you excluded). This is your list of eligible studies. At this point, you will need to retrieve and read the full text of each article in your list.
  • Reports not retrieved is the total number of articles in which you are unable to get the full text for your review.
  • Reports assessed for eligibility is the new list you have (Reports sought for retrieval minus Reports not retrieved).
  • After reading the full text of the articles, you will list your reasoning for any final exclusions in the Reports excluded section. Again, the exclusionary criteria is up to you to decide, and is based on the question you are asking.


The last section (Included) refers to the total number of articles you will be using.

  • This last section is the total number of results you've selected after all of your exclusions. This section also allows you to make a note if the number of studies (trials) you selected differs from the number of total reports you selected. A "report" is defined as "a journal article, preprint, conference abstract, study register entry, clinical study report, dissertation, unpublished manuscript, government report, or any other document providing relevant information."(2) If you searched registries, you might have found trials that don't include a report, so you would use this box to make a note of this.

    For example, if you found 15 studies, and two of them were studies found in a registry that didn't include a report, then your box would include this information:
    • Studies included in review (n=15)
    • Reports included in review (n=13)
  • For this assignment, you are only using journal articles (reports), so your number will be the same. You should have between 3-5 articles by the end of this process.
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