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Literature searching and finding evidence

Introductory guide for School of Health & Psychological Sciences students

Documenting your search

If you are writing a literature review as a dissertation or research project, you need to specify which resources you searched and why, how you carried out your searches, and the number of results you found. This search process is recorded in the methodology section of your document and should include the use of a Prisma Flow Diagram.

Search methodology

A methodology should document your search process clearly so that someone else can reproduce what you did and achieve the same results. I should include:

  • the names of the databases you searched, e.g. Medline, Embase. You should also include any other sources you used such as grey literature (conference proceedings, dissertations etc) and websites;
  • the date you carried out the searches;
  • any search limits you applied, e.g. language, date ranges of publication, types of publication;
  • any individuals or organisations you contacted.

The search strategies that you applied across the databases (your search history) can be added as an appendix to your document. This provides additional detail on:

  • which search terms you used
  • any search techniques you employed, e.g. truncation
  • how you combined your searches.

PRISMA flow chart