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Developing Research Skills for Staff (HWLS): Recording Your Search Strategy

What will I learn in this section?

It is normally advisable to keep a table record of your searches. This will help you to track where and what you have searched for, can help to identify further concepts or themes in research, and any mistakes you may have made.

You can also save your searches in each of the databases. To do this you will need to sign up for an account in that database. This is free, but we suggest you use your Sheffield Hallam email to sign up.

The information below shows you how to keep records of your searches.

Keeping a Record of Your Search Strategy - Use a table

It's really important, once you start your search process, to keep a record of what you are doing. Otherwise, you may find you cannot remember where you found your articles from, or how you found them. You may need to evidence how you found your articles as part of your research project, so having a record is going to be a big benefit. Plus, it is good practice when you are researching to keep a note of where and how you found it!

There are a few ways you can do this. You can use an excel spreadsheet to record your key words and Boolean, limits and number of results. Or you can use a table in a word document. 

Here is an example of how you might format a record table.

Database Keywords/Phrases Alternative Keywords/Database Headings Limits or filters (eg Date, Language, Peer Review) Number of results Notes/Reflections
Medline anxiety AND fast heartbeat 3 try other key terms
(anxiety OR worry OR panic) AND (fast heartbeat OR tachycardia) [tachycardia - database heading]




Saving Searches in a Database

You can also save your searches in a database itself, which is a good idea if you want to revisit them. You'd do this if you were working on a search strategy over a period of time. This short video shows you how to do this (remember, again, you only need to screenshot your search strategy for this assignment!).

Where Can I Get Help?

You can get help with quick questions using Library chat, or you can get in touch with the Library through the student portal or Hallam Help points. Here are some useful help links: