16 More Literature Searching Tips

Keep Track of Your Searches

Always keep track of your searches to avoid repeating work and make your literature search more efficient. Choose from the following methods:

  • Search strategy worksheet – build your search and update your search strategy as you go
  • Search log – use this template or make your own document to keep track of what you have searched and where
  • Save searches – some databases will let you save your search history and set up search alerts
Browse journals

Make sure to examine the journals most relevant to your work. Browse new issues of relevant journals and search within these journals to relevant articles.

  • Set up Table of Contents alerts for journals important to your work (see below in Alerts)
Set up alerts

Always set up alerts so that you receive updates on new publications. This is an easy way to both find new research on your topic and to keep up to date in your field of study.

  • Search alerts: set up a search alert in Web of Science or Scopus using your best search
  • Preprint alert: set up an alert in the preprint servers for your subject area. Look for a link that says “alerts” or “subscribe”
  • Table of contents alert: sign up for a table of contents (ToC) alert for journals important to your research. Most journals will let you sign up for an alert that emails you the table of contents for each new issue when it is published
Forwards and Backwards Searching

Forwards and backwards searching uses citations to look at who has cited a paper and what sources a paper cites

  • Backwards searching: look at the reference list of an article to see the resources they used (look at resources “backwards” in time from the original article).
  • Forwards searching:  also called citation searching. Look at who has cited an article in Web of Science, Scopus or Google Scholar (look at resources “forwards” in time from the original article).



When you start your literature search, you can contact your librarian for more tips and strategies. This will ensure you have a comprehensive and efficient literature search.



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Advanced Library Skills for Physics Research Copyright © 2020 by Lauren Stieglitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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