Page 1

Library Services Hints for literature searching for a systematic review

1. Brainstorm for synonyms and plan the initial search strategy. This will change as you harvest more terms from your search but it is a good starting point. If it is a clinical subject use the PICO system, if not the BEME structure is helpful. PICO Patient group(s) with condition/disease/problem Intervention Comparison Outcome An example of the PICO structure: Patient




Huntingtonâ€&#x;s Riluzole, disease sufferers Rehabilitation

Doing nothing

Effect on quality of life/length of life

Cyclists of any age

No helmet or different protection

Head, brain or facial injuries

Wearing a crash helmet

BEME Population/participants e.g. undergraduate or postgraduate students The activity under investigation e.g. the timing of feedback in assessment Outcomes e.g. change of attitudes or knowledge

2. Are there any terms you want to exclude from your search? E.g. children, a particular disease? 3. Think about what databases you are going to use. Just medical and health? Or multidisciplinary, social science or education? What about grey literature? Use Browse by Subject in eLibrary to think about the type of database. Some suggestions: MEDLINE EMBASE CINAHL PsycINFO Cochrane Library ASSIA Don‟t forget about other complementary resources! For example, you can search electronic theses, patents and statistical resources (see the final section of this document). 4. Think about your publication date range. How far back do you want to review? 5. Do you want to limit your search geographically? UK, Europe, global? 6. Do you want to limit to a type of material? E.g. reviews / journal articles? 7. Use subject headings AND free text Does your search term have a MeSH? Which databases have subject headings? Combine synonyms with OR, combine concepts using AND (Boolean logic). E.g. Therapies, Alternative (Subject heading) or “alternative therap*” OR “complementary therap*” OR “alternative medicine” OR “complementary medicine” etc.

8. Use truncation and wildcards As in the example above, to ensure you cover all spelling variations. If you don‟t know which symbol to use, check the database help pages. If the database does not use wildcards for alternative spellings make sure you search for US and UK spellings. E.g. in OVID databases „tumo?r‟ will retrieve articles containing the term tumor or tumour. 9. Some advanced techniques: frequency and adjacency searches. These can be used to increase the relevance of your search results. Frequency and adjacency operators are not the same on all databases and you will need to check what operators to use - look at the help pages-advanced search section. Example: as part of a search looking for research into student learning records. OVID databases (learn* adj5 record*).mp WoS (learn* NEAR record*) These searches would find articles containing phrases such as: Students were asked to record their learning Students were asked to record what they had learnt Students kept learning records 10. Don’t forget! Harvest relevant citations for keywords / subject headings and incorporate these into your search.

NB. These tips are to get you started on your literature search. For more information, see the links section below. Links For more detailed information, I recommend looking at:

DR Essentials, Topics 4 & 5 (Searching the Literature and Writing a Literature Review). You should already be enrolled on this WebCT course. The UoB guide to Effective Search Techniques: g.pdf

The University of York / NHS guide of resources for systematic reviews: views.pdf And finally, UoB database and resource guides: l Other resources: theses and dissertations Theses and dissertations are highly specialised pieces of research. The research information found in theses should be very up to date. You can look at theses to see existing research AND get a better idea of how to structure your own research. There are several sources of information available to you if you are interested in tracing theses: EThOS (or via eLibrary) is a one stop shop for free downloads of UK doctoral theses. If the thesis is already digitised you can download immediately. If not, you can request digitisation which usually takes up to 30 days.

Not all UK theses are available via EThOS as some institutions do not contribute to the system so you may wish to try: Index to Theses or via eLibrary: Index to theses describes itself as "a comprehensive listing of theses with abstracts accepted for higher degrees by Universities in Great Britain and Ireland since 1716".

If you wish to trace North American theses, it is recommended that you use Proquest Dissertations and Theses (via eLibrary). For European theses, try DART (via eLibrary) which provides bibliographic details of c. 100,000 theses from 12 European countries and around 160 European Universities. For more information: Library Services have produced a guide on ‘Tracing Theses and Current Research’ available at: f Library Services also offer a training session entitled ‘Tracing theses and dissertations’. For course dates and booking information, go to the Training and Skills Development Pages at Other resources: patents & statistics For information on using patents (often a great source of technical information and an overview of both products and processes) or statistical resources, please see the following Library Services guides: Patents:

Statistics: df

Literature searching & resources  
Literature searching & resources  

Hints for literature searching, additional resources and links to key guides