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Starting your literature review

Information providing guidance on starting a literature review, including resources, techniques and approaches to searching the literature and writing the review.

Review search results

Are you finding too much information? 

  • If you have too many results be more specific by using AND to add another search term.
  • Try more unique keywords e.g. instead of fluids, try isotonic fluids.
  • Limit results by publication date or format type e.g. review articles.
  • Exclude unwanted search results e.g.
    • In a database, the use of the boolean operator NOT will exclude the term from the results (e.g. blood pressure NOT hypotension).
    • If searching the web, this is achieved by the use of the minus sign in front of the term (e.g. influenza -colds, if you want webpage results on influenza not including colds).

Are you finding too little information? 

  • If you have too few results, you can use OR to allow for more possibilities.
  • Make your search less complicated by reducing the number of keywords.
  • Use broader terms, as your keywords may be too specific or query too narrow to find anything.
  • Check your keywords for errors in spelling.
  • Is the date range too narrow? Change this to expand the date range.
  • Make sure you are searching a database relevant to your topic.

Cited reference searching

Cited reference searching is another way to locate the most important literature relevant to your research topic.

To search for cited references you start with a good quality paper that is highly relevant to your research topic. You then locate the articles that have cited this paper since it was published. By reviewing the references in these articles you may locate further relevant resources on your research topic.

There are three key tools to assist you in locating cited references. For each of these you begin by searching for the paper you already know about. Once you have located the paper these tools have cited reference links you can follow:


Scopus


Web of Science


Google Scholar

 

In addition to these tools you could also search any of the full text databases relevant to your subject area to locate cited references. You may find that some databases provide cited reference links attached to articles. Even if cited reference links aren't available you could find cited references of a particular paper by doing a combined search for the author's name and the key terms in the title of the paper. 

Save searches and keep current

It is important to keep up with research published in your area as you progress through your research project.

To keep current you can save those effective search statements and strategies you have created and run these periodically. In many databases you can also set up automatic email alerts to new literature published in your research area.

For more information and instructions on setting up alerts see the online guide: