Module 2: Formulating a Research Question and Searching for Sources

Documenting Your Search Strategy and Results for Systematic Reviews

Your search process must be documented in enough detail to ensure that it can be reported correctly in the systematic review and reproduced for verification. During your search process you will have to keep track of:

  • Each database and platform (PsycINFO, PubMed, Medline etc) searched
  • Date each search was conducted
  • Subject headings and keywords used (including whether terms were exploded, truncated, etc)
  • Number of results retrieved for each search within each database
  • Total number of records over all
  • Number of duplicates identified
  • Numbers pre-screening and post-screening

Documentation Templates

In Module 1 we learned that PRISMA is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The PRISMA-S Group has developed an extension to PRISMA to assist researchers in documenting their literature searches for systematic reviews. The checklist identifies what to document in terms of information sources and methods, search strategies, peer review, and records management. The PRISMA flow diagram demonstrates how to document your final numbers.


Take a moment to review the checklist and the flowchart and save a copy for your own review.


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Advanced Research Skills: Conducting Literature and Systematic Reviews 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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