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EES3001 Professional Scientific Literacy

This guide provides resources to help you with your rapid review assignment

Why Document Your Search?

Because a systematic review attempts to be rigorous and unbiased, readers must be able to replicate your searches.

You might also need to:

  • Double-check your search
  • Make changes to it
  • Run your search to scan for new publications

For these reasons, record information about your search as you conduct it.

papers with post it notes

Source: “Researching the Exhibit,” MLibrary

Saving Your Searches & Creating Alerts

Most major databases allow you to save your searches. This avoids retyping many lines of text when you want to reuse the same strategy.

To save your searches, you will usually need to create a free account with each database.

Save Search History option in the Web of Science database

Web of Science save searches option.

To continue to use the same search over time, or to stay on top of the field, you can receive email alerts every time a new article that fits your search is added to a database.

As with saving your searches, setting up an alert is usually done by making a free account.

Set alert option in the Scopus database

Scopus set alert and set feed options.

Documenting Your Methodology

Keep a list as you go with this information (using a spreadsheet, an online or paper checklist, or a Word document):

  • Databases searched, and provider used (ex. OVID vs. ProQuest for PsycINFO)
  • Date you performed the search 
  • Search strategy, including subject headings and keywords used
  • Search history (show combinations of terms)
  • Number of results, both pre-screening and post-screening
  • Number of duplicates

The Cochrane Handbook section 4.5 offers further guidelines for documenting your methodology. The UofT Libraries' Citing Sources guide also provides some tips and handouts to help you track your research. 

Citation Management

Articles and books are easier to manage if you use citation management software. These tools save time and effort by collecting and organizing citations from books, articles, or other kinds of media so that you can find information easily and in the same place.

Most programs will also help you create a bibliography from your references.