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Dissertation and research project success

Track searches and reading

Why and how you should track your searches and reading for your dissertation or research project.

Two students work in the library on laptops.

When writing a literature review, dissertation or research project, it is a good idea to keep records of your search terms and results.

Tracking your searches and reading will be useful for your project and can form part of your methods and data collection. This process is helpful for multiple reasons.

  • You will save time and avoid repeating searches.
  • If your chosen topic doesn't have much published research, you can show this to your reader.
  • You can show which words you searched for, so your reader will know you covered relevant topics.
  • It allows the reader to repeat the search themselves.

Creating your search question

Some subject areas require a structured approach to searching, with a documented account of your search words and how they link together.

Refer to your own course's requirements for search terms. Common approaches for creating your initial search question include the PICO approach (patient, intervention, comparison, outcome) in healthcare research.

What and where to search

You will need to analyse your research question, aims, and objectives to locate the key areas for which you need to find research. These areas will influence your search terms.

Visit our Search success pages for more guidance on refining your search.

Documenting your research

Most online search tools include options for saving and sharing your searches and results. Your Academic Liaison Librarian can provide advice on doing this on your preferred search tool.

The following simple tables can also help to record your research:

Saving your references

Make sure you save details and content of the items you want to use in your literature review as you go along.

We recommend and support several reference management tools so you can find the one that suits you best. Visit our Referencing pages to find out more about how to reference, the available tools, and how to access support.

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