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Newcastle University

University Library

Subject support guide

Your subject-specific guide to using library resources.

Library Search

Systematic Reviews

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step 5 transferring your search

Once you have run your search on one key database, the idea is to apply the same search as closely as possible to each of your other databases or sources. As some databases use a controlled vocabulary, some don't, and others have different functionality, you won't be able to just run the same search through each database - you will have to adapt it. However, the aim is try and be as consistent as possible. Read the information below and have a look at the examples to see how this is done. 
How to transfer your search
 

The sign of a good search is that some of the same relevant results come up in all your searches. The databases content does often overlap and this is useful to reassure you that you are replicating your search as consistently as possible across all your sources.  If you get the same results these will be de-duplicated at a later stage (see the 'Managing your references' section). 

Verifying your searches
 

After you have transferred your search to all the databases and sources that you want to cover, the next stage you need to take is to verify your search. This means that you need to check if your research has retrieved the key documents that you found back in the scoping process in step 1?

In order to validate your results and check that you haven't missed anything, you could also do the following searches at this stage: 

  • Citation searches: look at references of key articles and look at who has cited it and follow the trail. Do these references feature in your own original search results?
  • Author searches: pick out your key authors in area and do some author searches in databases. Do these authors / references feature in your own original search results?
  • Contact individual key researchers in the field. What articles do they recommend?  Do these references feature in your own original search results?
  • Consult subject bibliographies. Do these references feature in your own original search results?
  • Hand searching: choose a few eminent journals and conference proceedings and browse through them to see if there are any pertinent articles which relate to your research. Do these references feature in your own original search results?

If you find some articles that are missing from your search ask following questions:

  • Are these articles indexed in the databases I’ve searched?
    • If yes, why didn’t my search pick them up? What keywords / subject headings have they been assigned? Re-examine your own search criteria and tweak and alter as necessary.
    • If no, where are these articles found / indexed? Do you need to be searching other databases?

Depending on the answers that you find, you may need to go back and re-tweak your Full Search Plan and re-run some of your searches.