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How to do a Literature Search: Managing your search/results

Save your search strategy

Most library databases enable you to register for access using an individual username and password.  We recommend that you do this because it will open up extra features of the database, in particular the ability to save your search strategy.  This is useful because:

  • next time you log into the database you can go right back to the search results without typing your search in again
  • you have a record of the search terms you used and the date you did your search

Save your results

 Library databases generally allow you to output your search results (authors, title, journal reference and abstract) to email or to a PDF file that you can store on your computer.  However, it is sometimes more useful to store them in a reference manager such as EndNote, which enables you to add notes and generate a reference list. See the library webpage on Endnote for more information.


Set up search alerts

Most databases, including Google Scholar, will allow you to set up a search alert.  This means that instead of regularly revisiting the database to repeat your search, the database will tell you when there is anything new that matches your search criteria, normally by email. You first need to register for an individual username and password for that database.

  • Topic alerts tell you when anything new is added to the database that matches your topic keywords.
  • Author alerts tell you if a particular author has published something new.
  • Citation alerts tell you when a particular article has been cited. You might be interested in using this to find out when someone has cited an article or conference paper that you have written.  A small number of library databases will provide this type of alert, including Web of Science and Scopus.

You can set up alerts across a range of databases to increase your chance of finding something new: no single database provides information about all documents on a given topic and by all authors.

To find out how to set up alerts, either search the help section within the relevant database or ask your Subject Librarian.