Structured literature searching – Part 3
In this section of the presentation we�ll
look at the why and how of recording your processes, your decisions and your research
strategies. We�ve already mentioned using your reflective
journal to start documenting your decisions. You may find it useful to record your thoughts
and reflections in relation to your literature searching as well.
What terms and databases worked best, and why?
What terms or databases have you decided to exclude, and again why?
What filters or limits did you apply, be they language or date or type of resource or geographic,
and again why? It�s important to think about the format
of recording your search. Can you do this in your reflective journal, or do you need
to use another format? For NVivo users, the Memo feature is great, and allows you to link
to and from your data and your files. Many people ask why bother keeping a record
of your searches and your search strategies? Most importantly it saves time.
It stops you reinventing the wheel � and redoing searches or trying words you�ve
already attempted. Have you already experienced the frustration of duplicating effort?
It is also particularly handy when you are searching across a few databases. Often you�ll
need to adjust the search strategies to suit the particular database.
It is also very helpful for PhD students, or anyone undertaking a long term project,
where you do your literature review at the start, but towards the end of the project
you need to see if anything important has appeared or published in the interim period.
If you�ve got a record of what you�d searched earlier, life is much easier, as you can replicate
the search and limit the search by date. This is also a really critical part of the
systematic review or meta-analysis process � ensuring that your study can be replicated.
You need to work out what works for you? Copying and pasting a search history or search terms
to a Word document or spreadsheet, capturing screenshots, using a saved search facility.
Experiment with different options and ask your colleagues what works for them. This word document is just one possible template
for recording your searches. A key benefit is that a word documents let
you copy and paste � both out of the databases then back in again � as you test and refine
your search strategies and search terms. You can also use the document to add in notes
and comments, making a note of WHY you made certain decisions.
I personally would improve this document by including the number of search results that
were retrieved with each search. There are many other examples of different
types of templates you can use. Contact your liaison librarian if you�d like to see a
few different options. All our library databases will let you create
a personal login, so that you can save your searches in the system. You can see that I�ve
saved this particular search strategy in my own folder. Generally you would use the Sign
In or Log In link at the top of each database page, to set up or access your own folder
and your own login. You are able to keep a record of the searches
themselves � the search history � but our databases will also let you re-run the
searches at a later stage. That way you can check to see what new material has been added
to the database since your last search. This is something you would set up once you
are happy with your search strategies, and the sort of results that you are getting. As well as saving your searches and search
history, one of the great features on all our databases is the ability to set up alerts.
Again, you would do this once you�ve got your search strategies in place.
Based on your search terms, you can create alerts and receive either email or RSS feeds
� notifying you when new material that matches your search terms has been added to that particular
database. Google Scholar and Google offer this facility
as well. Ask your favourite librarian if you need assistance
with setting up such alerts. You will of course be reading and scanning
the literature all through this process. As you come across other terms, consider whether
you need to add these to your search strategy? Literature searching is a moveable feast.