Systematic Literature Reviews typically follow a 2-step process for screening literature. Step 1, where you identify relevant articles based on the title and abstract, and Step 2, where you investigate the full text of the identified articles for further analysis. While titles and abstracts are free to view, full texts papers are often not.
A lot of published research is open access and is freely available for public consumption. But this is not always the case, as some research may be published in traditional closed access (subscription-based) journals, and readers are charged a certain fee for access to the articles.
To conduct a robust, unbiased literature review, one must consider all relevant sources of data, open access or not. As a medical writer conducting literature reviews for a client, you may send the list of paid articles to your client, or if your organization conducts literature reviews in-house, you may have a separate team or process to procure these paid articles.
If you’re an experienced reviewer, you’d be familiar with the manual work and logistics behind a systematic literature review. This blog will focus on the logistics of identifying free vs paid articles and the associated archiving, post the title and abstract screening. Below is an example of a typical workflow:
Now, let’s focus on the light blue arrow in the process flow above and estimate the manual effort behind progressing to full-text evaluation post the title and abstract screening stage.
As evident from the flow chart above, gathering and compiling full-text references for the full-text evaluation is a multi-step, time-consuming process.
While many organizations have an internal repository of articles or subscriptions to paid journals, literature reviews for regulatory submissions such as Clinical Evaluation Report (CER) or Performance Evaluation Report (PER), must be submitted with full texts of all sources referenced in the document. Hence, the task of compiling a report-specific folder/location with PDFs of included literature references still remains.