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Intro to Review Literature

Mysterious missing records

Sometimes when searching Multisearch, you'll get a total number of records, but the actual number of records that you can access is smaller. You may find that the result pages at the end of the search will be blank or give an error message.

What's happening? Multisearch is taking out duplicates as you go through the results.

Records can also seem to disappear when exported to a citation management program. It is the same situation. The Multisearch is removing duplicates before sending the export (usually a .zip or .ris file).

This can be problematic for a systematic search where part of your protocol is to record the number of duplicates. This is another good reason to use several individual subject databases for your formal methodology.

What's a complimentary index?

You library or library system purchases subscriptions to databases. The vendor may market several databases as a package and hopes to entice the library to buy more by adding complimentary databases. These may be databases given as a temporary trial, or databases that just come free as part of the subscription package, but may be pulled out of the package later.

Because your library can't count on that database being consistently available, it's marked as "complimentary." It can be difficult to track down what the complimentary database is. If you need to know, ask a librarian to look at the individual records from the complimentary database. By searching on the journal/article sources, librarians can sometimes tell you which databases indexes those sources.

Subject database or Multisearch?

Most librarians prefer to use multiple subject databases for lit reviews, because subject databases provide more searchable fields in a database record. Multisearch searches dozens of databases at the same time, but has to simplify search fields to a few that apply to all the databases.

However, Multisearch can sometimes be a good place to start, because it lists all the databases providing results for a given search. Going through the Database Provider list can help a researcher determine good subject databases for a topic.

Compare the list of searchable fields on the left (Multisearch) with the list of searchable fields on your right (PsycINFO). The field list from PsycINFO is shrunk to fit into a screen. A Database Provider list is displayed, too.

Another factor to consider is that for systematic review, you may need to track the exact number of articles that came from any one database, making Multisearch impractical.

List of Multisearch fieldsList of PsycINFO fields


Sample list of Databse Providers from Multisearch