2. Recording your search results

When carrying out searches for information about your research subject over a long period of time you will find it useful to record your progress at each stage of the process so that you avoid duplicating work. This recording process can include:


You will need to register with the databases that you use frequently (e.g. Scopus), but this will save you time as you won't need to retype a search if you wish to repeat it. More importantly, it will build a record of searches for each of the key concepts in your research question, allow you to combine them and reflect changes in the focus of your research over a period of time.


This could be seen as a rather old-fashioned approach, but it will still help you to record and trace any changes in the scope and emphasis of your searches. You can also use a journal to record particularly successful search strategies and useful keywords and phrases; a research journal may well come to form a key part of your working papers. You can be flexible about content.

The following pages are from a researcher's journal:

There are no set rules for keeping a record of this kind, but this person has outlined a clear research problem and objective, and then kept detailed step-by-step notes of a search of the JSTOR database. The result is that the following journal article has been identified as being of particular interest:

  • David Bushnell, 'The Development of the Press in Great Colombia', Hispanic American Historical Review, 30(4), 432-52.

The researcher has included some brief instructions for further actions to take. Note also that the footnotes and bibliographies of this article may well signpost the way to further useful items: mining an article for information in this way is called 'snowballing'.

Why not get started by downloading a copy of our search record template. Click on the thumbnail below:

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