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Mechanical Engineering

Keeping Track of Your Research

Step 7. Keeping Track

Documenting your research from beginning to end is an important part of the process. The steps you took to conduct your research need to be able to be replicated. 

For example, you may be asked to present the keywords or search strategies you used to find your resources to a professor, as part of the journal publication process, or even to a grant funding agency. Other times, you may be looking for a specific way of organizing your citations in one place when you are doing research in many databases. 

Regardless of the reason, keeping track of your research and the steps you took to complete it is always important. 

Search Logs

When keeping track of your searches, you want to ensure you are writing down the following pieces of information:

  1. Database Searched
  2. Search term(s) used (if applicable - how they were combined - AND/OR/NOT)
  3. Limiters used - i.e. dates, language, peer-reviewed
  4. Number of results found
  5. Date of your search
  6. Comments on the results (if applicable)

An example search history may look like the following:

Database Searched Search Terms + Limits Number of Results Comments on Results Date of Search Next Search Date
Web of Science ("water crisis" OR "water scarcity") AND Asia AND pollution 3,649 A lot of results, add date limiters? Jan 16, 2016 Feb 2, 2016

Often, databases will now have options for printing and/or saving search histories when you make an account. Take advantage of these to avoid a lot of manual tracking.

Search Tracking Templates

Don't reinvent the wheel!

UBC Library's Literature Review Guide provides an example of a template you can use to track your searches. Templates for Tracking Research

Other institutions offer templates you can use when tracking your research manually.

For example: University of Vermont


Citation Management

To track the resources you are finding in your searches and are relevant to your research, consider using a citation management tool. A citation management tool will help:

  • organize your research all in one place
  • avoid plagiarism by tracking your research path
  • create in-text citations with the click of a button(s)
  • easily format or re-format bibliographies

Freely available tools include: Zotero, and Mendeley. UBC Library offers workshops on these tools. 

For more in depth help please contact your subject librarian.