As a researcher, you’ll need literature search reporting in order to show that it was conducted in a rigorous, transparent manner. This is the best way to ensure that your research findings are valid and reliable. Reporting on your literature search allows you to record all of the details about how you searched for relevant papers – and this includes not only the search terms and strategies used but also any exclusions from your searches (e.g., by date). Here’s how we would go about reporting our own literature search:
Rationale Of Your Literature Search
You want your reader to understand why this topic is important. What will be covered, how will it be covered and what is the scope of the article? You also need to establish your authority on the subject matter by introducing yourself (e.g., I am a research assistant with two years of experience working with literature searches).
Search Terms And Strategies
Choose search terms and strategies that will produce the most relevant results. In addition to choosing the right database for your literature search reporting, it is important to choose your search terms carefully. When searching databases such as PubMed or Google Scholar, you should be aware of how each database indexes their literature – some databases have very specific ways in which they index titles and abstracts. Developing a robust search strategy is difficult, and to develop a professional one, you should always seek help from dissertation writing services.
For example, if a database uses truncation (the use of an ellipsis) for words that are too common in titles and abstracts but not found elsewhere in those documents (e.g., “Am J”), then using those words in other fields may not return any results at all! Other databases might not include truncated words at all (e.g., Web of Science).
Use Boolean operators wisely to improve your searches: AND/OR/NOT
The Database Searched
Once you’ve decided on the search terms, it’s important to specify what database was searched and when. This will help your reader understand how relevant your results are to their research. Include this information in the text of your report, as well as in a footnote or endnote.
Next comes the number of papers identified initially and after duplicates have been removed. Remember, duplicate articles are those which have been published more than once under different names or titles. Your report should also indicate whether or not your search included only certain types of papers: peer-reviewed journals, books, etcetera—and if so, how many were found within each category.
The Dates Of The Search
You should include both dates in your literature search reporting. If you are a student, it’s acceptable to just list the date that you conducted your research and found this article in your bibliography. However, if you’re a professional and have been given specific instructions on how to format your work as a literature search report, then make sure both these items are included:
Inclusion criteria are the specific characteristics of the studies that you will include in your literature search reporting. They must be defined in a clear, unambiguous way and should be written before you start your literature search.
Inclusion criteria typically list necessary and sufficient conditions for study inclusion. For example, if a research question is asking whether children with ADHD are more likely to have comorbid anxiety disorders than normal controls, then one would use an inclusion criterion that states: “Studies must report on children with ADHD aged 5–17 years old”.
Inclusion criteria should always be based on the research question of interest (see below).
Specific Exclusion Criteria
When doing literature search reporting, it is important to be aware of specific exclusion criteria. This can be due to the design of your study or because you want to focus on papers that are relevant in some way.
If you are looking at a specific topic with a particular age group or gender, this will narrow down your search considerably. You should also exclude papers which have been rejected from previous peer-reviewed journals as they are unlikely to have had any impact on other researchers.
To ensure that you don’t miss any relevant papers, make sure that your search includes all relevant keywords and phrases for whatever topic area you’re looking at (e.g., “depression,” “anxiety,” etc.).
The Numbers Of Papers Identified Initially, And Then After Duplicates Have Been Removed
The total number of papers identified initially and the number of papers that are ultimately included in the review should be reported. This information is important because it allows readers to assess the accuracy and completeness of your search.
This can be done by reporting both a raw count (the total number) and relative frequency (the percentage) of citations found within each publication type or source.
For example: “A total of 2,113 articles were identified through our search terms, with 1,851 duplicates removed using Endnote X7’s duplicate detection tool. After removing these duplicates we were left with a total sample size of 890 articles which included 740 peer-reviewed journal articles, 133 dissertations/theses/dissertation chapters/reports from databases such as Proquest, EBSCOhost, Springer Link and Scopus, 72 grey literature documents such as conference proceedings, etc., 11 government reports and 3 book chapters.”
Now that you know what to look out for in your literature search reporting, it is time to get started. Don’t forget all the tips we have provided here, and don’t be afraid of getting creative with your own report. Remember that if an editor asks you for more information or clarification on any part of your report, then it is perfectly acceptable for them to do so!