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Advanced Literature Search Guide for Nursing and Health Sciences: STEP 8: Present search results

Step 8: Present your search results

This page will show you how to present your search results in a table for inclusion in your assignment. 

Presenting your search results in a table

It is good practice to document your search results in a table showing your search terms, the number of results for each search string in each database, and the search limits and filters used. This is an audit trail, showing that your search is transparent, comprehensive and reproducible by anyone reading your work.

There are a few different options for how you present your search and results. For example, they could be presented as search strings for each concept or using a more transparent word by word approach.

Take a look at the document below for more information. 

Expanding your search with citation and hand searching

As well as the structured, systematic search that you will be recording in a table, you may need to expand your search further to get more results and to give you a fuller picture of the evidence available. 

Two ways you can do this are with citation searching and hand searching, which are explained in more detail below. 

Citation (related reference) searching

This differs from general literature searching for a topic as instead of searching for keywords you search for specific books or articles to find out which authors have been cited and also who has cited them in their work. Citation (or cited reference searching) is helpful as it allows you to follow the development of an idea or theory through the literature.

You can also use PubMed citation matcher to help you find other relevant articles from a known reference Video guide


Hand searching

This is a standard technique used in identifying studies for a systematic review because not every relevant journal will be indexed in the databases you search. Many articles contain  variety of information that is not indexed and therefore less easy to retrieve.

  • No database search strategy is perfect, as errors can be made by both the database indexers and by the person searching. 
  • Hand searching involves selecting the most important journals in a particular subject area and searching each one individually, by hand or electronically, with specific criteria in mind. It can also be used to search for sections/chapters in books. Benefits of hand searching.

​Use the A-Z of Journals to access the journal. You can then browse all issues or search for a word or phrase within all issues.

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