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Library Research Support & Services: Literature Searching & Systematic Reviews

Support with developing search strategies, undertaking Systematic Reviews and keeping up to date with the literature. 

Developing a search strategy

The searching process

Your Information Specialist can guide you through the process of developing a search strategy and applying this to relevant databases in your discipline. 

Breaking down a topic into component parts and identifying key words and their synonyms is the foundation upon which Boolean operators can be used to control your search across the literature.  You can also use keyboard commands such as * and ? for truncation and wildcard searching.  The introductory tutorials below explain the available options.

These tutorials cover the building blocks of search strategy development.  Once you are familiar with this process, look at our advanced guide on Systematic Reviews for more thorough guidance and approaches for specific disciplines e.g. Medicine.

Keywords tutorial 1 Truncation tutorial 2 Boolean Tutorial 3

Systematic Reviews

True Systematic Reviews are conducted according to a protocol.  See our separate guide for information on the different types of systematic reviews and available support: [site under construction]

Keeping up to date with the literature

Keeping up to date

Database Alerts:

There are various types of alerts that can be set on databases so that the latest research lands straight in your inbox:

  • If you have spent time constructing a search it is advisable to set up an alert so that the database will auto run your search at periodic intervals and alert you to new publications that match your terms.
  • Follow an author to be notified when they publish another paper or to receive notifications when one of their published papers is cited.
  • Follow a paper to be notified when it is cited.

You will be required to create a personal account with the databases beyond the sign in you use as a University member to access the resource in the first place.  Therefore, this is a second 'log in' after first authenticating to use the resource. 

Create a personal account in Web of Science to set up alerts that will notify you of new publications matching your search terms and alerts for citations for a favourite paper.

Clarivate guidance on the available options for setting up Web of Science alerts

Create a personal account in Scopus to set up alerts that will notify you of new publications matching your search terms, new citations for a favourite paper and also author alerts.

Elsevier guidance on the available options for setting up Scopus alerts

Google Scholar Alerts search for new material that has been added to the Google Scholar database, not necessarily newly published material. Unfortunately, this means that date ranges do not work for Google Scholar Alerts.  You cannot create alerts for publications from individual sources.

Set up a Google Scholar alert

Table of Contents alerts:

These services can inform you when new issues of journals are available or individual articles via setting your keyword preferences:

Cited Reference searching

Cited reference searching

Find out how many authors have cited a particular paper.  If you have found a useful paper on your topic, a search or analysis of the citing references of this paper can be a useful gauge to determine:

  • more recent papers on the same or similar topic
  • how knowledge in your discipline has developed over time by placing work in chronological context
  • how knowledge has been applied, improved, extended, or corrected.

Web of Science and Scopus are the major resources for citation searching:

Web of Science


Scopus doesn't have a separate search function for cited reference searching.  Instead, search for your paper or author and the cited by figures will display.  You can also view the citations of multiple documents as follows:

For multiple documents:

  • Run your topic search as normal and check the boxes of relevant hits
  • Click "View Cited by" in the grey menu box immediately above your hits to get a combined list of documents that cite any of the checked documents.