Systematic reviews

Document your search

It is important to document your search so that you remember how you searched and so that others can review and reproduce your search.

Document your search in a table where you specify:

  • the database you searched in and the name of the database provider
  • the date
  • which search terms you used and if they were keywords or searched for in e.g. title/abstract field
  • how the search terms have been combined with each other (Boolean operators)
  • which filters were used and
  • how many hits you got.

You can also make comments in the search table, for example, why you used quotation marks around a phrase or used truncation (searched with an asterisk).

This documentation should be available for review, for example as an appendix to your publication.

Examples of documentation

Database: Pubmed   Date: 2021-09-22

Search no Search terms Results Comment
Block 1
1 Child OR Child, Preschool OR Adolescent [MeSH] 3 058 877  
2 child* OR adolescen* OR teen* OR youth [Title/Abstract] 1 671 318  
3 #1 OR #2 3 560 421  
Block 2
4 Neoplasms OR Oncology Nursing [MeSH] 3 397 922  
5 neoplas* OR tumor* OR cancer* OR malignanc* OR oncolog* nursing [Title/Abstract] 3 027 715  
6 #4 OR #5 4 296 763  
End result

#3 AND #6

Filter: publication year 2010-2021

5 231  

Databas: Web of Science Core Collection   Datum: 2021-03-29

Search no Search terms Results Comment
1 TOPIC: ("city planning" OR "urban planning") 20 405  
2 TOPIC: (citizen* OR resident* OR communit*) 1 738 109  
3 TOPIC: (influenc* OR dialog* OR participat*) 4 433 259  
End result

#1 AND #2 AND #3

Filter: publication year 2000-2021

1 405  

Lists of references

After completing your search, save lists from each database with all the references that were included in the results. This can be helpful later if you want to review what was included from the various databases before removing duplicates or starting going through which publications to include or exclude.