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ENG599 Research Skills Guide: Step 3.3 Document your search strategy

This guide is designed to support students completing ENG599

Documenting your search strategy

You will need to carefully record your search strategy to ensure it is reproducible and verifiable, especially for publication.

How? For each search, record the name of the database, the years covered, the date you searched and your exact search strategy, including all the terms you have used. One way to record your searches is to save the search history from each database. To do this you will need to create an account with the database provider - select My Account (in Ovid databases), Sign In (EbscoHost or Proquest) or Register (Web of Science).

Here's an example: Date: 21 November 2019. Database: SciTech Premium Collection (ProQuest)

   Search Terms
 1.  (Native north American OR inuit).ti,ab
 2.  exp Native North Americans/ or exp Inuit/
 3.  1 OR 2
 4.  source water protection OR watershed planning.ti,ab
5.  3 AND 4
  ti,ab = Title or Abstract … / = Proquest term; exp … / = exploded Proquest term

This can also be expressed in a linear way:

((ab(native north american OR inuit) OR ti(native north american OR inuit)) OR (MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Native North Americans") OR MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Inuit"))) AND (ti(source water protection OR watershed planning) OR ab(source water protection OR watershed planning))

Now translate your search into other databases you are using, taking into account the unique language of each database - what symbols are used for truncation, wildcards, and so on, and the thesauri terms if applicable.

You will most likely have to go back and refine your searches as new terms and subject headings present themselves. This will be an iterative process and can be helped by keeping a search planner as a living document throughout the process. Deakin University has a suggested search planner here which you could adapt. Or try the spreadsheet devised at Monash University, which has a different sheet for each database searched - .

Further reading

For some great examples of how to record your search framework and strategy across various disciplines and databases, see Chapter 7 of this eBook: Foster, M. J., & Jewell, S. T. (Eds.). (2017). Assembling the pieces of a systematic review: A guide for librarians. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.  

Check your understanding

Charles Sturt University acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which its campuses are located, paying respect to Elders, both past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.

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