Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
How to search the literature - guides & tutorials
ECLIPSE - a tool for identifying your search terms
Start considering your key search terms by identifying the key concepts in your research questions and then consider synonyms, related terms, different spellings, abbreviations, more specific and general terms that an author or authors may have used to discuss the topic.
The ECLIPSE tool is designed for health management searches but may help you frame your search for a change in a health informatics service.
What does the search requester want the information for?
At whom is the service aimed?
Where is the service sited?
What is the change in the service, if any, which is being looked for? What would constitute success? How is this being measured?
Who is involved in providing/improving the service?
For which service are you looking for information? For example, outpatient services, nurse-led clinics, intermediate care?
Successful literature searching
Spending a small amount of time thinking about your search strategy will really help you when finding information for your assignments. They key points to a good search strategy are:
- Defining your Keywords
- Setting limits (ie: date of publication, language)
- Where are you going to search? (databases, websites etc.)
- Recording your results
Here are a few book chapters that can help you when it comes to developing your search strategy:
- Aveyard H. (2019). Doing a literature review in health and social care: A practical guide (4 th ed.).Maidenhead: Open University Press. (Read Chapter 4 - How do I search for literature?)
- Aveyard, H., Payne, S., & Preston, N. J. (2016). A post-graduate's guide to doing a literature review in health and social care. Maidenhead. Open University Press. (Read chapter 4 - How do I search for relevant literature?)
- Bowling, A. (2014). Research methods in health: Investigating health and health services (4th ed.). Maidenhead: McGraw Hill/Open University Press. (Read chapter 7 - The principles of research).
- Fink A. (2020). Conducting research literature reviews: from the internet to paper (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
- Greenhalgh, T. (2019). How to read a paper: The basics of evidence-based medicine and healthcare (6th ed.). Hoboken: John Wiley. (Read Chapter 2 - Searching the literature).
- Kumar R. (2019). Research methodology: a step-by-step guide for beginners (5th ed.). London: Sage.
There is a wide range of information you may like to include in your assignments. This includes:
- Books - We recommend that you start with your module reading list in Canvas to find key texts on your topic.
- Journal articles - Your main database to locate journal articles is PubMed
- Grey Literature - This is basically anything not published in a journal, for example conference proceedings, government documents, reports from Organizations.
Getting your keywords right is a very important part of the search process, the more literature you read on your topic the more keywords and key terms you will come across. At the beginning of your search you may only have a few keywords, with these you can conduct a scoping search (a brief, broad search) to get an overview of how much literature there is on your topic. Based on your results you can then refine your keywords and rerun your search.
Correct combination of your keywords using boolean operators (AND/OR/NOT) will be important. We have created a research record form to help you to think about keywords for your search.
NB: Some of our databases will also have Subject Headings/Thesaurus headings. For example Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) in PubMed/MEDLINE. Using subject heading searches is an advanced way of searching for literature and can provide a useful, focused set of results. Each database will have a help page with further details.
Critically appraising your sources is a crucial element of any literature search and a question we get asked a lot. How do you know if your sources are:
- academic enough
- Free from bias
There are a number of excellent books, book chapters and websites that can help you when it comes to critically appraising your sources. Here are a few:
- Aveyard, H. (2019). Doing a literature review in health and social care a practical guide (4th ed.). London: Open University Press. (Read Chapter 5 - How do I critically appraise the literature?).
- Aveyard, H., & Sharp, P. (2017). A beginner's guide to evidence-based practice in health and social care (3rd ed.). London Open University Press. (Read Chapter 6 - How do I know if the evidence is convincing and useful?).
- Aveyard, H., Sharp, P., & Woolliams, M. (2015). A beginner's guide to critical thinking and writing in health and social care (2nd ed.). Milton Keynes: Open University Press. (Read Chapter 2 - How you can think more critically about information that is readily available)
- Cottrell S. (2017). Critical thinking skills: effective analysis, argument and reflection (3rd.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Yudkin B. (2006). Critical reading: making sense of research papers in life sciences and medicine. London: Routledge.
- CRAAP test - A checklist for evaluating webpages.
- CASP UK - Useful checklists for all forms of paper such as Systematic Reviews, Cohort Studies and Randomised Controlled Trials to work through when you are reading research.
Managing your references
We recommend using reference management software to organise, sort and reference when writing. At Swansea University Libraries we support Endnote, both the online and desktop versions. Both versions help you to store and organise your references and format them in Word.