Module 2: Formulating a Research Question and Searching for Sources

When to Stop Searching

If this is your first review, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure when to stop the searching process. Afterall, you don’t want to miss anything that’s possibly relevant, so the searching process never really seems to come to an end!

Unfortunately, we don’t have a firm easy answer like “if you find 10 articles you can stop.” There is always a chance that an article might slip past your extensive searching, but if you have done the steps below, then the chances of a really important article slipping past you is pretty slim.

Tips on When to Stop Searching

    1. Determine that your search strategy is working. You’ll know it is working when your search results include major studies/sources that have been recommended or, after a quick analysis of a few articles, you can tell they meet your criteria.
    2. You have searched all relevant databases.
    3. You used the citation searching techniques (See previous section). When using these methods you should see studies that you’ve already found in your database search and some new ones.
    4. You decided to add in some new search terms to a database search strategy and it yielded no new sources.
    5. You decided to remove a search term and the major studies you’ve found in previous searches have disappeared on the results page. 



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Advanced Research Skills: Conducting Literature and Systematic Reviews (2nd Edition) Copyright © 2021 by Kelly Dermody; Cecile Farnum; Daniel Jakubek; Jo-Anne Petropoulos; Jane Schmidt; and Reece Steinberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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