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Workforce Development Library Guide: Literature searching

A guide to library resources for Workforce Development students

Literature Searching

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. Select the '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 guide on Principles of Effective Literature Searching

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:

Keyword:

thrombolytic therapy

Alternative terms:

thrombolytics

thrombolytic agents

clot busting drugs

Keyword:

A&E

Alternative terms:

accident and emergency

emergency department

Keyword:

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.

In the next tab you will find guides for searching in specific databases. You can also arrange a 1-2-1 with one of our librarians for help with literature searching or go to the Research Enquiries Desk.

There are many specialist healthcare databases that you may want to use to implement a literature search. Key databases include:


Select the link below to read our guide to searching Cinahl and other Ebscohost databases:

Searching Healthcare databases using Ebscohost



Select the link below to read a guide to searching BNI:

Searching BNI using Proquest



Select the link below to read our guide to using the Cochrane Library:

Searching the Cochrane Library


You will find more databases by looking up the A-Z databases list on the library website. You can select a specialist area to refine the list to suggested databases for your discipline. Select Nursing and Midwifery or Allied Health depending on your subject area.

The web resources listed below have links to evidence-based information or up-to-date news items on a range of health related topics:

Below you will find a list of libraries which you may be able to access. Some have study space within the Greater London region. Some will also allow either reference only access or borrowing rights to their collections.