Q: What is the rule for describing the result of a thesaurus search in the manuscript?
I did a literature search for papers of past cases through PubMed and Google. Other than the search words, is there anything that I should mention in the manuscript? Also, how should I mention the search results for the types of documents that are different from research papers (for example, administrative materials)?
You seem to be doing a systematic review or at least a very detailed literature review. Also, you seem to have either started working on the manuscript or are about to begin working on it. If so, and although you may be aware of it, you need to develop and register the protocol for your systematic review (and also meta-analysis). [This will also partly answer your two questions.] Ideally, you should register the protocol before beginning the review, but you can also do it before submitting the manuscript. Registering the protocol helps to ensure that your review question is indeed novel and also ensures that you do not end up manipulating the data (in the case of a meta-analysis). At the time of submission, you need to provide the protocol and preferably also the PRISMA checklist (a tool to help you progress through your review and analysis) to the journal. You may learn more about review and analysis protocols and the PRISMA checklist in this article: A young researcher's guide to a systematic review
The PRISMA checklist provides pointers on the search strategy for a systematic review or meta-analysis. However, you would benefit more on how to describe the search strategy by going through other protocols in a protocol registry, such as PROSPERO. For instance, we located two protocols on PROSPERO that you could consider as references for writing about your strategy. For a generic description, you could refer to this protocol, and for searching through administrative databases, you could refer to this one. (Note that your area of study is not mentioned in your query. So, you may need to refer to protocols specific to your area.)
Now, here are some pointers for describing your search strategy (including key words/phrases):
- In the case of PubMed, apart from keywords, provide the MeSH thesaurus terms and any other methods you used. For instance, you may have used the new version of PubMed (rather than the previous legacy version), which aims to make searches easier.
- Mention the techniques you used, such as adjacency/proximity and truncation.
- Describe if/how you used the Boolean operators.
- If you used Google Scholar, describe the specific methods you used, as searches on Google Scholars are not regarded as being reproducible or transparent. Doing this will also benefit other researchers searching on Google Scholar in a similar area.
- Finally, provide the number of results from each source as this may help prove the gap(s) in literature your study is possibly looking for.
Lastly, and although you may be doing this already, save your search articles and references using appropriate tools, as explained in this article: A young researcher's guide to digital tools for literature search and reference management
All the best for your review and manuscript!