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Occupational Therapy Subject Guide

A guide to library and information resources for Occcupational Therapy students

Planning your literature search

Before you start a literature search it's important to plan what steps you will take. Ask yourself:

Where is the best place to find information for your topic?

  • If you are searching for more general information or looking at the background of a topic, search for books and more using Hunter
  • If you are searching for up-to-date journal articles, use Hunter or a specialist healthcare database. Use the 'Selected research databases' tab for more guidance on selecting databases relevant to your subject area

What are the limits of your search?

  • You may want to think about the parameters of your search, such as date, language or geographical scope. Many search tools have features that allow you to refine your search.

Are there any research models you can use?

For more general advice on planning a literature search, select the next tab. You will also find more information in our Literature Searching guide, and Ovid and EBSCO search guides.

You may also want to refer to our Libguide on Systematic Reviews: finding and managing the evidence for more advanced searching strategies.

It is important that you plan your search in a methodical way to find the most relevant sources of information. If you can, turn your search topic into a research question. This will help you to formulate a specific and targetted search. For example, the topic 'thromobolytic therapy and heart attack' is quite vague. Instead, it could be phrased as:

How does thrombolytic therapy in A&E improve outcomes for heart attack patients?

From here, you can identify the key concepts in your search and come up with some alternative terms and keywords to search. Use the example table below as a guide. You might want to create your own table in a word document or on a piece of paper. 

Write out your essay topic as a question:

How does thrombolytic therapy in A&E improve outcomes for heart attack patients?

Identify the important concepts in your questions and list any alternative terms underneath: 


thrombolytic therapy

Alternative terms:


thrombolytic agents

clot busting drugs



Alternative terms:

accident and emergency

emergency department


heart attack

Alternative terms:

myocardial infarction

Searching alternative terms will help you to find more results. Remember that searching is an iterative process and you may want to add or delete search terms after reviewing your results.

As well as using keywords, you can also search for your concepts as subject headings/terms which the video below explains in more detail.

Literature Searching

The most effective way to search our library subscriptions is to use Hunter. Just enter keywords relating to your topic and select 'Articles and more' from the drop-down menu to get started.

However, if you are carrying out a research project or a literature review, you'll need to use more sophisticated search tools like the ones listed in the selected research databases tab.

Should you need any help articulating a research question, developing a search strategy or using the databases, please check out our Literature searching guide, which provides a useful introduction to the search process.  The Library Canvas module also has a learning unit on How to run a literature search.

Should you need any further assistance, please email the Liaison Team or your Liaison Librarians to arrange a 1:1 appointment via Microsoft Teams.


flag Offsite access

Note: If you're accessing online resources offsite, you will be asked for a username and password. Use the SGUL username and password that you use to access the University computers.

The log in page can look different depending on the supplier of the article, but will usually refer to an 'institutional login'. You will normally need to select your location (e.g. UK Access Management Federation) and then select your 'institution'. Remember to look for 'St George's, University of London'.

This might also be referred to as a 'Shibboleth' login - again, just use your SGUL username and password when prompted.