When you are conducting your searches, keep track of what you are doing by documenting your search process in enough detail to ensure that it can be reported correctly in the review.
Documentation of your search strategy should include:
Saving searches in a database
It is also possible to save your search history within each database. In order to do this you need to set up a personal account in each relevant database. For details on how to set up an account, check the Help pages. Saving a search in a database will allow you to run the search again at a later date. You also have the option to create an alert for your search. For a demonstration of how to save searches in ProQuest watch our video Saving your search.
Alerts are an effective means of keeping track of the latest research. Many databases and journals offer free alert services through emails and RSS feeds. Types of alerts include:
How to report a search?
There are a number of places where searches can be reported. These include the appendix, the review abstract and the methods section. Below are some examples that show these different models:
The updated PRISMA 2020 Statement was published in 2021 and consists of a checklist and a flow diagram. It is intended to be accompanied by the PRISMA 2020 Explanation and Elaboration document.
The PRISMA 2020 flow diagram can be used for further documentation of the number of records identified by database searching and through other sources. The flow diagram depicts the flow of information through the different phases of a systematic review. It maps out the number of records identified, included and excluded, and the reasons for exclusions. There are different templates available depending on the type of review and sources used. There is also an online PRISMA Diagram Generator, as well as a PRISMA flow diagram ShinyApp.
There is also a PRISMA for Searching extension (PRISMA-S) that was published in 2021. This checklist includes 16 reporting items, each of which is detailed with exemplar reporting and rationale.
PRISMA 2020 and PRISMA-S: common questions on tracking records and the flow diagram
This article reviews some of the common questions about using the PRISMA 2020 flow diagram and tracking records through the systematic review process
A useful reporting tool for qualitative studies is STARLITE.
Why report a search?
As stated in the article below “a complete description of the literature search, including the criteria used for the inclusion of reports after they have been located, used in a research synthesis or meta-analysis is critical if subsequent researchers are to accurately evaluate and reproduce a synthesis’ methods and results.” (Atkinson, Koenka, Sanchez, Moshontz, & Cooper, 2014).
We recommend that you use a bibliographic management tool such as EndNote to manage your search results.
With EndNote you can:
For further information see our EndNote guides.
The library holds EndNote training workshops. Please check the Library Workshops calendar for upcoming classes.