The systematic literature review (SLR) is an increasingly important research tool for extracting new knowledge from existing research data. The SLR process originated from the medical field but is now common across many disciplines, including social sciences and computer science.

In the medical field, the Cochrane Collaboration is a reference organisation that "produces and disseminates systematic reviews of healthcare interventions". Cochrane reviews follow the guidelines provide in the Cocharen handbook. According to the handbook, "a systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made".

In general, the SLR process is very resource intensive. Moreover, it is essential that the SLR process can be easily validated and repeated if necessary, if research outputs from the SLR process have to carry an appropriate level of confidence.

The Tool

SLR Tool

If you prefer, you can also download the full source code and database creation script:

Download PHP Download SQL

Prerequisites: We have installed this software on Apache web server with PHP support and MySQL database.

Installation instructions: just uncompress the files in a directory that is accessible from your webserver; create the database using the slrtool-createdb.sql script. Modify the config.php file and you should be able to work straight away. Please contact us if you need further details.

Additional instructions

  • The tool should be easy to use. These are very brief instructions just to get started. Please contact us if you need additional help!
  • Go to and create a new account by clicking on the link "New user? Signup here".
  • Check your email (including your spam folder) for your password.
  • You can now log in. The first thing you need to do is to create a new project (top right corner).
  • Fill in the details (name, start an end date, etc.). When you enter keywords and press enter, a set of documents will be loaded from Google Scholar. You can select which documents to include (but don't worry to be exhaustive now, you can always add more document later).
  • Select "Create project", wait a few moments and your project will be created.
  • You can open a project by selecting "Open Project" from the main page.
  • To begin the SLR activity, start by defining a research question (see links at the top of the page). You can then add quality criteria, categories, criteria of inclusion and exclusion.
  • At this point you are ready to classify the various resources you have identified. Click on "Resources" (top bar) and you'll go back to the list of resources.
  • You can add additional resource by selecting the "+Add resource" link above the table.
  • You can classify documents by clicking on the pencil to the right of the document: a new window will appear where you can apply the criteria defined above.
  • You can add collaborators to your project: ask them to register in the system. Then, select "People in this project" (top right corner). Search for their email address in the following windows, and drag-and-drop their names from right to left to add them to a specific project.
  • You can generate reports by selecting "Reports" from the top menu.
  • You can export Bibtex files of your resource by clicking "Export Selected" on top of the table in the Resource page.

The SLR Process

The Cochrane Handbook identifies the following 8 steps in a systematic literature review (see Part 2: General methods for Cochrane reviews):

  • Defining the review question and developing criteria for including studies
  • Searching for studies
  • Selecting studies and collecting data
  • Assessing risk of bias in included studies
  • Analysing data and undertaking meta-analyses
  • Addressing reporting biases
  • Presenting results and ‘Summary of findings’ tables
  • Interpreting results and drawing conclusions

The controls described in the following figure are described in general terms in the literature. The tool we plan to develop will provide concrete instantiations of each control in collaboration with key communities of interest.


Please contact Dr. Franco Raimondi ( if you have queries about this project.