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Systematic literature reviews for education and social sciences

A guide to conducting a systematic literature review in the Education discipline

Recording your systematic searching

Recording your systematic searching

In the introduction page to systematic literature reviews one of the three principles mentioned was auditability, which is the need to show how you came to find and choose the materials in your review. Having set up your literature review structure it is time to develop your approach to recording your strategic searching process.

Recording your systematic searching

You are encouraged to set up a spreadsheet or table to give your research structure. The table willoutline your searching process, recording each step of the process to show how you located the sources you will use. 

Use headings such as these:

  • where you have searched (database, catalogue etc.) - record its name
  • when you searched
  • date range of search
  • how you searched (basic or advanced)
  • what search terms you used
  • what refinements you used - additional/different terms or other limiting options used
  • the number of results attained from each search and/or refinement
  • notes to show why you have used the results selected.  

This section of the literature review does not need any notes on the actual literature itself; the purpose of this section is to track and demonstrate the processes you have undertaken to find the literature you will use in your review. 

You will need to repeat this recording process for each resource searched.

Example: Strategic searching process record


Date search conducted

Search type

Search terms

Years covered by search



Search result refinements

Refined results


Papers used




Teacher training AND special ed* AND high school

last 6 - from 13/11/2015 - to present

Full text; peer reviewed,


Subject area – special education



10 papers met criteria

Library catalogue



Teacher training AND special ed* AND high school

from 31/12/2009 to present

Full text, journal articles, peer reviewed, 


Discipline area _ education

Subject area – special Education, disabled students


 Added Australia to search – reduced to 59 resources

Around 20 papers met criteria will reduce upon reading