Skip to Main Content

Literature reviews: Health: Help and support

For level 6/7 students

Your HSS Library Team

We are here to support you with your literature searching, and to make sure you do the best literature review possible.

We will be available on email as well as offering in class support and follow up guidance: but please remember

  • Your literature search has to be your own work. Just as you can't have someone write an essay for you, in the same way you must have done your own search.
  • If you see the library team you should have looked over the 'check your progress' boxes at the bottom of the pages of this guide, and you should have completed a search strategy form with your topic, keywords and synonyms you have used, and the results you have found to date, ready so we can discuss your search with you.

check your progress: search strategy

Stage of your search Things to remember
Have you formulated your research topic?
  • This IS NOT the final research question at this point.
  • You need to do the searching and find articles in order to determine what you are researching and what your actual research question is going to be
List the search terms you have used
  • Use the Search Strategy Form to list your initial search terms, keywords and synonyms, based on your research topic


check your progress: database searching

Stage of your search Things to remember
Your first attempt at the search to see if it works.
  • Run your search, and add any new relevant search terms that you find add to the appropriate search line of the database and also update your Search Planning Form
  • If you do find additional terms to add, remember you need to re-search your databases to update the results to include the new term
  • Test to make sure your search terms are locating relevant articles
  • Add truncation * and "phrase searching"  where necessary
Have you decided on the limits to apply?
  • Apply peer-reviewed, English language, date range, etc. (think about the justification for the date range you have chosen)


Have you checked your topic for literature reviews and/or systematic reviews?
  • If a literature or systematic review has been done on your topic, you need to discuss this with your academic. Systematic reviews and literature reviews are not primary research


check your progress: other ways to search

Stage of your search Things to remember
Have you checked references in your articles?
  • Remember your date range still applies so don't spend time on literature that's out of date.
  • You only need to look in the reference lists of articles which are really relevant to your research question.
Have you used other means of searching?
  • Have you tried citation searching with some of the older articles which are really relevant to your question?
  • Have you looked in journals and in other online sources - but make sure the results you find are primary research.


check your progress: evaluating

Stage of your search Things to remember
Start to document the number of articles retrieved
  • Once you are happy with your search and the articles being retrieved, start to document how many articles were retrieved from the databases you are searching
Have you developed inclusion/exclusion criteria you can now apply?
  • As you go through your results apply your inclusion/exclusion criteria, but be prepared to adjust them if there are too many or too few results which you can use.
Assess your articles for relevance looking at the title & abstract
  • Initially screen the title and abstracts of your results for relevance
Assess your articles for relevance looking at the full-text
  • Read the full-text of the articles you believe are relevant and eligible for inclusion in your review (which you kept at the Title & Abstract screening stage)
  • Exclude any after reading the full article which are not relevant


check your progress: PRISMA

Stage of your search Things to remember
Have you recorded all the numbers for the stages of your search?
  • Have the full total of all the results, and show you you have worked with the results step by step to get down to the specific number of articles you are writing about.
  • Remember to record the names of the databases you looked in.
Have you checked you are using the right PRISMA boxes for each step of your search?
  • Go back through the example at the top of this page and check all the links
  • Remember mySearch is NOT a database, it’s a federated search engine which searches over 80+ databases simultaneously. If you click on 'Databases' on the left hand side of the mySearch screen you will see which databases have returned results