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Illinois Tech Library Guides

Completing a Successful Literature Review: Step 3. Document search strategy and organize results

Step-by-step guide to forming keywords and searching for articles for a literature review.

Keeping track of your search

Why does keeping track of my search terms matter?

As mentioned in Step 2, you should keep track of the search terms (keywords and/or subject terms) you use. There are three main reasons why:

  1. You will save yourself time and energy by not repeating searches that you have already done.
  2. If you ask for help with your literature review from a librarian, it's very helpful for us to know what you've already tried.
  3. Your professor might require you to submit what you searched for. Later in your career, if you publish, you will often need to submit the search strategy you used.

If you search in different databases, you should keep different search tables for each one. This is because subject terms and any searching wildcards differ between databases, so each database will use a different set of keywords and/or subject terms.

Receiving updated results

Once you perfect your search, it's a good idea to set up an alert for yourself for any new results that come in, especially for long-term assignments like dissertations. This will eliminate the need to manually check the databases for new results. For EBSCO databases like Academic Search Complete, you can create an account that will notify you each time there's a new result. To set up an account, click the Sign In link (this is separate from your MyIIT credentials).



Use a Citation Manager

The best way to keep your research organized is a citation manager, especially if you are dealing with hundreds of articles, such as for a dissertation. Citation managers not only save and organize your articles into folders, but they help you insert citations into your written work and create bibliographies, saving you hours of manual work.

Using a citation manager requires a bit of a learning and adjustment period, but has a great payoff. Invest a little time to learn how to use one and you will benefit for the rest of your educational/professional career! Citation managers help you capture and organize references that you've found online, including the full text/PDF if available, and then help you to draft in-text citations and bibliographies. There are several available, but the library recommends Zotero if you aren't yet using a citation manager, because it is free, open-source, and very easy to use.

See the linked Zotero research guide below for installation help, tutorials, and a link to sign up for a workshop.

Paul V. Galvin Library

IIT Galvin Library's picture
IIT Galvin Library
Paul V. Galvin Library
Illinois Institute of Technology
(312) 567-3616