Record vs Report vs Study: Standard Terminology for the PRISMA Flow Diagrams in Systematic Reviews

5 min readNov 25, 2021

Many reviewers are not familiar with the preferred terminology during the systematic reviewing process. They refer to the same or different concepts with confusing terms: article, paper, reference, citation, title, abstract, PDF, full text, trial, research, record, report, and study!

The confusion continues when the reviewers use these terms interchangeably throughout their review writing and in the PRISMA flow diagram. Fortunately, such details are embedded in the free PRISMA flow diagrams templates; however, reviewers may miss the details where the devil hides!

In this short blog, I am trying to explain why using Record, Report, and Study as three standard forms of three relevant concepts can solve this problem and why using the other terminology is not necessarily correct and causes confusion.

Use ‘Record’ instead of Article, Paper, Reference, Citation, Title, or Abstract.

The majority of the search results are coming from bibliographic databases. In data science and databases management, each one of these search results is called a ‘Record’. The collection of such records becomes a Database or a Library.

Using ‘Article’ or ‘Paper’ instead of ‘Record’ is confusing.

  1. Article and Paper refer to items published in journals, magazines, and newspapers, while, in a systematic review, we have no limitations to the source of the search results. We usually have book chapters, conference abstracts, dissertations, clinical trial registry records and even web pages among the search results. Calling these items Article or Paper is confusing.
  2. It is misleading because some reviewers think they should only include Articles and Papers (published in journals). So they exclude the rest of the relevant records by mistake just because they are not journal Articles or journal Papers.

Using ‘Reference’ or ‘Citation’ instead of ‘Record’ is confusing.

We use these terms in the academic writing context frequently and usually refer to either the bibliographic information at the end of academic works or in-text citations. What’s…


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