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Explore and refine your topic: Log your searches

The search log

Logging your searches helps you to avoid unnecessary repetition in your searching and will save you valuable research time. A well kept search log will provide a record if you or somebody else needs to replicate a search at a later date.

Southern Cross University Library have put together some tips in this video Documenting (& saving) your search strategy (4:37).

Keep a search log to track:

  • Where you searched (name of database, catalog, etc.)
  • When you searched
  • Search terms and combinations of terms that were successful
  • Search terms and combinations of terms that were not successful
  • Searches or leads you want to pursue next

Start a log

You can start with a simple search log in NotePad. NotePad opens above the browser so you can make notes during your search sessions.
The plain text makes it easy to cut and paste your search terms into search interfaces of catalogues, search engines and databases. On a Mac you could use TextEdit.

Here's an example entry for a simple search log:

Date: June 7 2019
Database name: PsycINFO
Search terms: subjects: (employee engagement) AND (Intervention)
Limits: limited to publication type Peer Reviewed Journal & year range: 2010 - 2019
Result: 33 articles; exported to Refworks
Comments: Also try keyword (mp) "Work engagement"

Keep (re)search notes organized

It's a good idea to have an online notebook to keep your notes in one place. Apps such as OneNote (Microsoft) or Evernote allow you to organize and tag your personal notes, web clips, scans, images etc. into your own personal research log. Google also offers a note app, Google Keep that syncs with Google Drive.

Many subject specific databases allow you to print the Search history - a log of the searches conducted in a session.
Watch the video Copying Search Strategies from the Ovid Platform made by the Gerstein Library, University of Toronto to see how it's done.


This trick also works for databases on other database platforms:
Proquest > Select a result > Print > Tick box at: Include: Recent searches
EbscoHost > Search History > Print Search History

Saved searches & database alerts

Many databases allow you to create an personal login to save searches and create alerts. Within the database look for an option to Create a New/Personal Profile or Set up Alert. You can receive your alerts via email or RSS feed.

Save a search query to quickly access the retrieved results at a later stage.
You may also wish to rerun the search in the future to identify new articles.
Use this saved query to set up an alert.

Create search alerts to receive new articles that match the criteria.
To edit or stop the alerts, you will need to login to the database.

The tutorials below are from EBSCO Support.

My EBSCOhost Folder - Tutorial (3:42)
This tutorial demonstrates the features of the My EBSCOhost Personalization folder.

Using the EBSCOhost Search History - Tutorial (2:12)
This tutorial demonstrates the EBSCOhost Search History feature, including editing a search, saving a search, and editing a saved search.

Creating a Search Alert in EBSCOhost - Tutorial (1:28)
This tutorial demonstrates how to create a search alert on the EBSCOhost interface.

More database tutorials

Ovid - My Workspace
Video tutorials:
My Account on Ovid
Create Saved Searches on Ovid
Creating Autoalerts on Ovid

Proquest Platform - My Research
ProQuest Platform: My Research

Scopus - Elsevier account
Video tutorial:
How to save searches and set alerts (2:13)

Web of Science - My Tools
Video tutorial:
Saving Searches and Creating Alerts in Web of Science (2:15)


Note apps

Cross platform note apps