Documenting & saving your search

Learning outcomes

  • Saving a record of searches, results in less time redoing searches

Why save searches?

  • Efficiency: you know where you've already searched and what terms you've used
  • Consistency: re-use search, with necessary modifications, across multiple databases
  • Replicability: systematic review processes require ability to replicate study

Using a template, as in the activity below, allows you to copy/paste into different databases as you test and refine your search strategies.

Recording notes is helpful to remember why a search was done, why some terms were included or excluded, or why a limiter was used.

Recommended information to record in a search strategy:

  • date of the search
  • database(s) searched
  • specific search terms / search strategies, and the associated results
  • any limits you’ve applied e.g. date ranges, types of resources
  • grey literature sources used
  • other techniques e.g. searching print journals, contacting experts
  • notes or comments about which searches are most effective (and which were not useful)



Many databases have built-in functions to save your searches. You can use these settings to automatically run to capture new publications on your topic and have them emailed to you.

Example in Ebsco:

Video © EBSCO Industries


  • Create template to record your searches Example search template
  • Create accounts in relevant databases and save searches.
Comprehensive searching