Using Covidence Tools: Scoping Review Progress

Published by Heather Woods on

Welcome back to another instalment of the SEL in Action Blog. This past week, I have been focusing on doing the initial screening of the articles that I gathered using my search strategy (you can find more information on that here). As we started with 24, 022 articles, I needed a way to sift through the massive number of irrelevant articles. To do this, I have used a few features within Covidence to help identify and sort articles. Specifically, I will talk about highlighting important and irrelevant terms and filtering.


Covidence allows you to highlight in green key terms you are looking for. You can also highlight terms you don’t want in red. This allows you to easily scan with your eye for key information about the relevance of an article to your review. Below, you can see where to find this feature and my terms that I have highlighted.

The highlight feature can be found in the Settings under Criteria > Manage Highlights

Here is an image of how this appears in the screening process.

Example of highlights in the abstracts

This tool isn’t perfect, as it will highlight each individual word and variation of words, so when I ask it to highlight high school. For instance, it highlights all the instances of “school” or “high” regardless of whether they are together. I have tried to use quotation marks to make it look for the exact term, but that didn’t seem to make a difference. Additionally, in looking for the United States (as I’m looking for Canadian content only), it highlights all instances of “states” whether it’s So-and-So stated, or stately, etc. This isn’t a huge issue, as it still draws my eye to relevant content, and I can pretty quickly make a decision.


I have also been using the filter feature a lot. Within the screening window, you can filter items based on a word. The system will then provide you all articles and abstracts that contain the word and bold it for you. Again, helping draw your eye to relevant information. Here is an example:

An Example of using the filter feature

I have been keeping a list in my research journal of the words I need to filter by. These words include:

  • Medical
  • Nurse
  • High School
  • Secondary
  • United States
  • College
  • University
  • Health
  • Disability
  • Special Education
  • Preschool
  • Math
  • Workplace
  • Athlete
  • Tourism
  • Language

These are common terms that have been coming up in my irrelevant pile, that I’ve been able to screen (or am in the process of screening). I still screen the title and abstract, but at a much faster rate. Within each, there is usually a handful of potentially relevant articles, so I’m sure to mark those as potentially relevant for a full screening.

General Progress

Thankfully, Dr. Karen Bouchard has volunteered to join the project to assist with screening articles. Below are the statistics of our progress,

Screened articles Flagged for second review Irrelevant Remaining
11,433 349 11,084 12,589

 Many of what has been flagged for the second review is to verify the age group or location. I found that some abstracts were not clear about where the research was conducted or what age group they were working with. So, I am hoping that in the second round, we will be able to eliminate even more, rather quickly. In the meantime, I am hoping to complete a significant chunk of the first round of reviewing by next week’s check in.

Phase Two Update

Initially, we were planning to launch the recruitment for phase two during March break. This phase will recruit teachers, educational staff, and administrators to talk about how they enact SEL in their schools and classrooms. However, with the current school closures due to COVID-19, we have decided to delay the recruitment. During this time, everyone’s schedules have had to change due to children being home, workplaces being closed, and social distancing. In light of this, I will delay the recruitment until about mid-April. At this time, I will reassess the situation and perhaps start reaching out to my networks.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to email me at:

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