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Searching the Public Health & Medical Literature More Effectively: Organize Citations & Search Strategies

Citation Managers

You have many options when it comes to selecting a program to manage your citations; view the columns below and the tabs above for more information on specific citation managers.
All citation management programs let you:

  • Add citations from databases like PubMed, Web of Science, etc.
  • Organize your citations into folders or groups
  • Add PDF files of articles to the references
  • Format citations in Microsoft Word (and other document programs such as Google Docs) to create bibliographies in any of 1000s of styles
  • Share all or part of your database, with various degrees of permissions, and collaborate with others on documents

For more information on a variety of citation managers (EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley) and more, including step-by-step exercises to get you started, see the Library's guide Manage Your Citations

Organizing Your Literature Search/Search Results

Charts like this Literature Review Matrix (.doc) help you organize what you find in your literature search. (This is a simplified version of the matrix presented in Health sciences literature review made easy: the matrix method, J. Garrard; Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning, 2011) 

Using a spreadsheet is an alternative approach.

You can adapt Zotero, EndNote, or Mendeley to be used with a matrix like this by using notes or custom fields in your database.

Save your search strategies

Nearly all the databases you use to find articles, etc., retain your search history for the duration of your session.

Literature reviews, like all research, should be rigorous and reproducible. Save or print your search history to help document your search strategy, which should include:

  • the date of the search(es),
  • search terms used (keywords; title words; MeSH/thesaurus terms/descriptors),
  • any limits (eg, language, publication dates) that you placed on your search,
  • the number of relevant citations you found in each database.

PubMed's History (click "Advanced" under the search box) and My NCBI can help with both saving your search strategy and the citations you find in PubMed. See the PubMed Tips guide for more information. Other databases have similar tools to save and/or download search history.