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LibrarySkills@UCL: Searching for information

A guide to search techniques and developing a search strategy for assignments, literature reviews and research.

Recording your search methodology

Why record your search strategy? It is important for

  • Recalling and retracing the steps you took to find your results;
  • Reporting your search in your written work, for example in the methods or as an appendix;
  • Enabling anyone who reads your work to understand or replicate your search.

If you are writing a systematic review it is crucial to report your strategy in full detail for each source you have searched.

What do you need to record?

For recording your strategy in full, you should include:

  • Databases searched, including database platform and the date range / version if applicable (e.g. Ovid Embase 1980 - );
  • Date search was conducted;
  • Your full, complete strategy - copy and paste the search exactly and in full, including numbers of records retrieved;
  • Your strategy should also include any filters used.

Please note if you are carrying out a systematic review, please ensure you consult relevant documentation on reporting, for example as set out in the Cochrane Handbook or PRISMA statement.

How can you record the strategy?

You should copy and paste the strategy directly from the database you used, if possible.

In many cases it is possible to save your search strategy. To do so, you would need to create an account with the database. Saving your searches means you are able to easily amend, re-run and adjust your search. In many caes you will be able to output the search strategy as a text based file. Please see the help guides for individual databases for more informtion, or contact us for more help.