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Searching Strategies for Literature Review in Web of Science: Guides

Literature Review

A literature review is a comprehensive analysis of existing research on a specific topic, theory, or research question, providing background information, analyzing key themes, and avoiding duplication of previous studies. As the purpose of a literature review is to gather and evaluate existing research and scholarly works relevant to your research question, it is very important and essential to review a significant number of papers, as researchers do not want to repeat research that has already been done. It is essential to select and review papers that are highly relevant, influential, and provide valuable insights into the research topic.

When you search academic databases subscribed by the Library for literature review on your topic,  you may construct search strategies to filter down results to not only match a list of specific keywords but also to ensure the results only come from a specific set of journals. Within this subject guide, we would like to share with you the tricks of properly constructing searches from the Web of Science.

Web of Science

Web of Science is a powerful and well-known academic database indexing mostly ‘prestigious’, high-impact journals and is a popular choice if you are searching literature from a set of journal titles.

# Tip 1: Create a Web of Science account to create saved searches

Click on the ‘Register’ link at the top right of the opening search screen and create a personal account by registering your email address.

Your account can: 1) Keep your history  2) Save searches and alerts  3) Save marked lists 4) Personalize your homepage. It is very useful when you have long complicated queries or anticipate reusing parts of such searches.

# Tip 2: Search for papers using a set of journal titles within the same research field

Use the Journal Citation Report (JCR) database to generate a list of journal titles from the same categories 

1. Under "Categories", select the specific discipline for more sub-categories

2. Under each sub-category, you can find different number of journals with different editions. For example, we select "CULTURAL STUDIES", and then find there are 44 journals uner the AHCI edition.

3. On the right top of searching interface, you can export all journal information with the same category and edition in CSV or XLS. All journals listed are our targeted journls which are essential in our searching strategies.

# Tip 3: Use the Advanced Search Query Builder for searching keywords and journal titles and Search History feature to combine searches

1. You can construct your searching strategies using a list of journal tities and Boolean operators. In Web of Science, SO = [Publication titles] is used to search journal titles, so you can enter all titles of your targeted journals by "SO = Journal title 1 OR Journal title 2 OR Journal title 3... "

For searching a list of journal titles with the same research filed as shown above, I have retrieved 29,367 results from Web of Science Core Collection.

2. You can create and run a separate search only for your keywords. For example, I am going to search for the TS [Topic] =("Popular culture" OR "mass culture" OR Music*))) AND TS=("Cultural identity" OR "ethnic identity") using advanced search. At this moment, 691 results can be found using this search query. 

3.  Next step, we need to combine queries from step1 and 2 as they are total separate searching queries, as we are interested in the journal articles covering the specific keywords within the targeted journals. You can click No.1 and No.2 search queries, then choose "AND" from the drop-down menu of "Combine Sets", after that, a new searching query will be created accordingly. As you can see, we can find 16 records from the targeted journal titles. You can create an alert for any new results matching the search by clicking the bell icon on the right.

The advantage of separating two searching queries instead of combining them into one search query is to easily reuse any searching query when we search for other keywords in the future. 

Some useful tips for you:

  1. Whe you are searching for journal titles in Web of Science, you can try to skip the words like "the", "and", "&" in journal title for easy searching. Sometimes you cannot locate these journal titles with these words in searching queries.
  2. If you are not able to search by journal titles, you can try to search by ISSN
  3. When searching journal titles in "publication titles", the double quotation is not necessary, but you still can add it.