When you search for resources, it’s a good idea to keep track of your search: what databases you’ve used, what keywords you’ve tried and in what combination, etc. Your professor may even require it! Keeping track of these things is called documenting your search, and it’s a useful way to remember what you’ve already tried, so you can build on previous efforts instead of repeating them. In this module, you’ll learn about a few different methods for documenting your search.
Documenting your search usually means writing down all the steps you went through during your search process, including information such as the following:
Whether or not it’s required for your assignment, documenting your search is useful because it helps you keep track of which databases and which search techniques you’ve already tried. When you know what you’ve already tried, it’s easier to try other strategies to find what you need. You may want try one of the following approaches:
If your professor requires that you document your search, they may or may not provide a format for you to follow. No matter what, read your assignment outline carefully and follow all the instructions.
This module will show you two methods for documenting your search:
Explore the tabs to learn about each of these methods.
Note: If your instructor has not asked you to document your search but you want a good way to keep track of all the materials you’ve found, try a citation manager. You can learn more about citation managers in the Use a Citation Manager module.
One way to document your search is by accessing your search history in the databases you’ve used. You can save that history in one of the following ways:
If you’ve searched more than one database, be sure to include your search history for all of them. Watch the video and view the information below to learn how to find your search history in CINAHL and PubMed. Other databases will likely have the search history in similar places; this module will help you understand where to look so it’s easier to find elsewhere.
To access your search history in the CINAHL database:
To access your search history in PubMed:
A PRISMA flow diagram is a specific format for documenting your search. It was designed for researchers performing systematic reviews and meta-analyses, but your instructor may ask you to include one with your assignment.
Note: If your instructor has NOT asked you for a PRISMA flow diagram, you can skip this tab.
To create a Prisma flow diagram, you can use the resources and information below:
Note: If your instructor has asked you to use a modified version, you should follow their instructions.
This is what a standard PRISMA flow diagram looks like (Figure 1), using the 2020 version known as PRISMA 2020. You can find templates for the PRISMA flow diagram on the PRISMA website.
Figure 1: PRISMA flow diagram. The image of the PRISMA flow diagram is a derivative of the PRISMA Flow Diagram template from the PRISMA Statement on the PRISMA website is used under a CC BY license.