Converting Cochrane Review records to RIS

Cochrane Library exports records in a format that neither Zotero nor EPPI-Reviewer recognizes. While there are easier ways to handle small numbers of records (see the comments below), for large batches it is more efficient to convert them all simultaneously to the commonly accepted RIS format. One solution is to paste your exported references into a custom-built Excel file. If you choose this route, please read my comment, which explains an easy way to improve the result and lists the fields that Zotero still won’t recognize. But you might consider following another procedure that yields more fields that reference-management software can read. Both options have several steps.

  1. Export your records from the Cochrane Library site.
  2. Open the file (by default, ‘citation-export.txt’) as a plain text file using Microsoft Word. Leave Windows (Default) as the encoding. Just click on OK.
  3. Press Ctrl-h to open the Replace dialog box.
  4. On the top line (Find what:), type abstract^p
  5. On the bottom line (Replace with:), type abstract^pER: 
    1. Please note: there is a space after ‘ER:’, so it’s ‘abstract^pER:
  6. Click on Replace All.
  7. Save the file as a ‘Plain Text’ file. That is, click on Yes.
  8. Go to the RIS Export website.
  9. Under Step 1, browse to find your file of references. Then click on Upload.
  10. For Step 2, choose ID:. from the first drop-down box. Then choose ER:. from the second drop-down box.
  11. You could choose PT:. from the third box and SO:. from the fourth, but this is unnecessary.
  12. As soon as you see a table appear with ‘Cochrane, Tagged 5’ in the first two boxes, click on Select.
  13. For Step 3, click on Export. The result, ‘export.txt’, is now in an RIS format that other programs can read.

Good luck!

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17 responses to “Converting Cochrane Review records to RIS

  1. Zotero supports import from Cochrane via the URL bar icon – I’m not aware of any problems with that?

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    • Clicking on the Zotero icon in the address bar on the search-results page didn’t work for me (that icon looks like a folder). I got an error message instead. Clicking on the Zotero icon (an open book) on the page for a single article did work.

      I’ll edit the blog post to make it clear that I’m referring to converting large numbers of references; in my case, I exported 90.

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  2. folder icon should work as well. so that you can get up to, say, 90, with four clicks. Are you using Zotero Standalone with Chrome? There are some quirks on the site that could explain this to fail. In Firefox it should work quite reliably, though. If you’re on Firefox, could you give me the exact search strategy you’re using so I can try to replicate that?

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  3. Thanks for reading and commenting, but I’ve devoted more than enough time to this. Regardless of the Zotero issues, this method still might work for those using other reference-management programs, as mentioned in the post to which I link in the first paragraph.

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  4. At step 12 I get an error –
    Import error: The number of start tags (ID: ) and the number of end tags (ER: ) are not the same. The ‘hits’ file may need editing. Check around item #53 for an incorrect start or end tag. This is near item …
    But I cannot find anything that seems incorrect

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  5. Hi, Vasumathi – Sorry about your difficulties. I haven’t exported Cochrane Review records in many months, so I can’t remember whether I encountered a similar issue and, if I did, how I handled it. Good luck!

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  6. I have the same problem as Vasumathi.. where you able to solve it?

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    • I hope Vasumathi will reply if he found a solution.

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      • Vasumathi Sriganesh

        Vasumathi is a “she”, and sadly there is no other change in the situation. I have not found a solution.
        I went through all the comments and kind of remember that Zotero on Firefox used to import results. Have not tried it for long though

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  7. Thanks for replying! And The Man Named Tracy should have been more careful about your gender – sorry.

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  8. Is there a same way to convert a pubmed/embase search to RIS?

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    • Hi, Jasper – Unfortunately, I haven’t needed to do this kind of work in a couple of years, so I can’t answer your question.

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    • Jasper – I’m using (Rayyan systematic review application) and (Mendeley reference manager). You can do Pubmed, Science direct, and Cochrane (using the method above but change the End tag from ER:. to US:. and then I exported to Mendeley reference manager – Then exported to RIS from there)

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  9. Change the End tag from ER:. to US:. and then I exported to Mendeley reference manager

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  10. Jasper – I’m using (Rayyan systematic review application) and (Mendeley reference manager)

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