Skip to Main Content

How to Search the Literature (Advanced)

This guide offers an eight step approach from identifying your topic to managing your search strategy and results

Manage Search Strategies and Results

Managing search strategies and results is an important step in the literature search process. Both provide a record of what you have done and found. This is critical if you are working on a knowledge synthesis project (e.g. systematic review, practice guideline) or anticipate re-running your searches in future. Details in the search history (e.g. controlled vocabulary, keywords, number of retrieved records, database name) inform the method section for publication. 

Here are a few suggestion on how to manage your search strategies:

  • Create an account in a database and save your search strategy
    • In the Ovid platform remember to include the name of the database as part of the saved name or comment field
  • Email, export, print, or save to file the search history
    • It is recommended that you do this on the same day you export the results

Note: another good practice is to record the date of export on the search strategy history, and be sure to also make note of the total number of records retrieved in each database.

Here are a few suggestions on how to manage your search results:

  • Use citation software tools (e.g. EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, RefWorks)
  • Use knowledge synthesis management software (e.g. DistillerSR, Rayyan, Covidence) 
    • You can create a Covidence account free of charge here

Note: it is recommended that you screen the results outside of the database as there will be duplication of records 

The selection of which citation software tool or knowledge synthesis management software to use can be informed by considering the following:

  • Will it allow you to collaborate or share with other team members?
  • Can you create folders and subfolders?
  • Can you manage multiple projects?
  • Does it allow for linking to McMaster's full-text resources?
  • What is the storage capacity?
  • Does it allow you to remove duplicate records?

For more information on citation software tools, see the LibGuide to Citation Management Software.