Searches as data: archiving and sharing search strategies using an institutional data repository


  • Alisa B. Rod Research Data Management Specialist, Research and Scholarship, McGill University Library, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • Jill T. Boruff, AHIP Co-Lead Editor, Journal of the Medical Library Association, Associate Librarian, Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada



Research Data Management, Data Deposit, Data Repository, Knowledge Synthesis, Expert Searching, Research Reproducibility, Systematic Review Methodology


Background: By defining search strategies and related database exports as code/scripts and data, librarians and information professionals can expand the mandate of research data management (RDM) infrastructure to include this work. This new initiative aimed to create a space in McGill University’s institutional data repository for our librarians to deposit and share their search strategies for knowledge syntheses (KS).

Case Presentation: The authors, a health sciences librarian and an RDM specialist, created a repository collection of librarian-authored knowledge synthesis (KS) searches in McGill University’s Borealis Dataverse collection. We developed and hosted a half-day “Dataverse-a-thon” where we worked with a team of health sciences librarians to develop a standardized KS data management plan (DMP), search reporting documentation, Dataverse software training, and how-to guidance for the repository.

Conclusion: In addition to better documentation and tracking of KS searches at our institution, the KS Dataverse collection enables sharing of searches among colleagues with discoverable metadata fields for searching within deposited searches. While the initial creation of the DMP and documentation took about six  hours, the subsequent deposit of search strategies into the institutional data repository requires minimal effort (e.g., 5-10 minutes on average per deposit). The Dataverse collection also empowers librarians to retain intellectual ownership over search strategies as valuable stand-alone research outputs and raise the visibility of their labor. Overall, institutional data repositories provide specific benefits in facilitating compliance both with PRISMA-S guidance and with RDM best practices.


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Case Report