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Dissertation Success

Keeping track of your searches and reading

Whether you are using a literature review as your main method of research, or whether it is the introduction and justification for your chosen topic, it is a good idea to keep records.

Keeping a record of your search will form part of your methods and data collection if you are doing a research project which has a critical literature review as its methodology. Even if you are using another form of data collection, keeping a record of your search and including it in your dissertation (e.g. as an appendix) will be useful.

  • It helps you to avoid repeating searches and will save you time.
  • If you do not find much already published on your chosen topic, it helps to prove this to the reader.
  • You can show where you have searched, so the reader will know the lack of coverage in the review is not down to a lack of research.
  • You can show which words you searched for, so the reader will know you covered the relevant topics.
  • It allows the reader to repeat the search themselves.


Coming up with a search question

Some subject areas require a very structured approach to searching, with a documented account of your search words and how they link together. Please refer to your own programme's requirements for this. Common approaches for coming up with the initial search question include PICO in Health.


Establishing what to search for and where to search

As with the assignments you have done previously, you will need to analyse your research question, aims and objectives to locate the key areas for which you will need to find research, and therefore your search terms. Look at our Search Success resource for help with this.


Documenting your search

There are options in most online search tools for saving and sharing what you have done – ask your Academic Liaison Librarian for advice on doing this with your preferred service. There are also simple tables which can help.

Template for documenting a literature search (.docx 15.0 kB)

Template for documenting multiple searches in one overview (.docx 17.1kB)


Saving your references

Make sure you save the details and content of the items you are going to use in your literature review as you go along. Library & Learning Services recommends and supports several reference management tools which means you can find the one which suits you best. Reference management tools will help you save and reference the resources and can save a lot of time when you are writing an extended piece of work. If you need a refresher on referencing or want to find out more about our reference management tools, our referencing pages have everything you need.



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