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Systematic searching: Handsearching

Handsearching complements database searches

Database searches are often supplemented by a manual search, i.e. handsearching. Handsearching can be used to find studies that are incompletely indexed in databases or otherwise not found in a database search.

How to handsearch

  • Carefully browse the main scientific journals and other publications on a given topic. Perhaps you already know the key publications in your subject area, or you can look at which journal titles appear most often in search results.
  • Use forward and backward citation chains.
    • Select the most relevant documents from the search results as 'core documents'
    • Take a look at their bibliographies. Many databases suggest similar or related articles and some databases also show articles that cite the article.
    • Make use of search engines designed for searching and analysing references, such as Citationchaser, CoCites and Dimensions.

Alerting and monitoring services

Most databases allow setting up alerts that will notify by e-mail of new publications that match your search criteria. 

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