Documenting your search
This means recording where you looked for information, why you chose those sources, how you carried out your searches and how many results were found. Keep track of your activities as you search. It is much harder to justify the decisions you made and to remember the results you found in each source after the event.
To what extent should you document your search?
This depends on your reason for searching the literature. For example, if you are just looking for background reading, you may not need to demonstrate to anyone else how and where you found your references.
However, if you are carrying out detailed research (for a thesis or systematic review) you are more likely to need to provide rigorous documentation of your search process as part of your submission.
Writing up your search methodology
A search methodology should document your search so that someone else can reproduce your steps and get the same results. Include:
- the names of the sources you search. You should also include any grey literature sources you used
- the date you carried out the searches
- any search limits you applied - eg language, date ranges of publication, types of publication
- any individuals or organisations you contacted
- any sources you handsearched.
- how you searched (keyword and/or subject headings)
- which search terms you used (which words and phrases)
- any search techniques you employed (truncation, adjacency, etc)
- how you combined your search terms (AND/OR)
Do some other things as well
You will need a main folder for business matter (keep track of the emails you've send?), a to-do list, and a master log of what you have done.
You will need a bibliography folder for the bibliography itself and also not to repeat the same searches you have already done. The bibliography is the list end the end of your project in which you will list the material you have used. It will also be used by the person who will read your project to see the material you have used.
You will need a folder for reading notes and one to store material (articles in pdf for example). This is also particularly useful when working in a team and you have to share materials and knowledge among yourself.
All these activities have a dynamic relationship and you will see that research questions will be coming onto your list and going off your list with an alarming rapidity!
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