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Basics to conducting a literature search Dennis Donovan, Ph.D. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences University.

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Presentation on theme: "Basics to conducting a literature search Dennis Donovan, Ph.D. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Basics to conducting a literature search Dennis Donovan, Ph.D. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences University of Washington

2 What is a Literature Search? A literature search is a well thought out and organized search for all of the literature published on a topic. A well-structured literature search is the most effective and efficient way to locate sound evidence on the subject you are researching. Evidence may be found in books, journals, government documents and the internet.

3 7 tasks in the Research Lit Review 1.Selecting research questions 2.Selecting your sources 3.Choosing search terms 4.Running your search 5.Applying practical screening criteria 6.Applying methodological screening criteria 7.Synthesizing the results

4 Purpose of a Literature Search Broadens your knowledge on a topic Shows your skill at finding relevant information Allows for critical appraisal of research

5 Purpose of a Literature Search Such searches are critical when preparing research papers or projects. A good literature search ensures that the researcher is not duplicating work already done, and is also giving credit where it is due. Authors of review articles often note that a prominent study very pertinent to the topic was NOT noted or cited anywhere. A good search helps indicate you know your topic and how it adds to the body of knowledge.

6 Guiding principles 1. A good and thorough search takes a LOT of time. There is no way of getting around this. Any database takes time to learn. If you determine from the beginning that you are willing to put multiple hours into the process, it may help your mindset.

7 Guiding principles 2. A good and thorough search is best done by YOU. There are people and services that can assist in searches, but you (and co-investigators) are the one who knows the topic best. Your intimate knowledge of the subject and what you are trying to accomplish will assist in the identification of relevant articles.

8 Guiding principles 3. A good and thorough search is on-going. The time between project conception and publication will likely take a minimum of 12 months (and may take several years). Research on your topic by others occurs during this time. It is important to make sure that your submitted product is as up-to-date as can be reasonably expected.

9 Starting point We need an idea… –Simple enough, but we’ll need some specifics in order to narrow the search. So, our topic might be a condition such as HIV and alcohol use in Kenya –Some specifics (“key words”) might be: HIV; AIDS; alcohol; Africa; Kenya; –Knowing some of the important authors, or terms specific to your interest, will narrow the search Our search will focus on risk factors associated with HIV and alcohol use in Kenya.

10 Search engines These are very useful and there are several to choose from. They have different capabilities and personal preference will determine which you are most comfortable with: –PubMed –Cochrane –FirstSearch –Hinari

11 Other Engines good for searching multiple databases in one search EBSCO – /advanced?sid=3f18f6c2-c0a7-4be5- abf2- 9403974a451e%40sessionmgr13&vid=1&hi d=23 /advanced?sid=3f18f6c2-c0a7-4be5- abf2- 9403974a451e%40sessionmgr13&vid=1&hi d=23 WEB OF SCIENCE – search_mode=GeneralSearch&SID=2FmX 8hoCfF99ZIBEa4h&preferencesSaved= search_mode=GeneralSearch&SID=2FmX 8hoCfF99ZIBEa4h&preferencesSaved Google Scholar –

12 About HINARI HINARI Access to Research in Health Programme, set up by WHO, provides free or very low cost online access to the major journals in biomedical and related social sciences to local, not-for-profit institutions in developing countries. Enables low- and middle- income countries to gain access to one of the world's largest collections of biomedical and health literature. Up to 13,000 journals (in 30 different languages), up to 29,000 e-books, up to 70 other information

13 PubMed PubMed provides access to citations from biomedical literature. Free to anyone with a computer and accessible anywhere. Limited full-text article access. PubMed is one of the easier search engines to learn, with good online tutorials and help available.

14 Search Tools Truncated search words Marr* = married, marriage, marry Boolean logic Use OR, NOT, AND

15 Narrowing down the search: Number of PubMed “hits” based on key words hiv aids: 113,139 hiv aids and alcohol: 2,598 hiv aids and alcohol and Africa: 350 hiv aids and alcohol and Africa and Kenya: 30

16 Can sort by date, author and journal Scroll to an article that looks relevant and click to get the abstract. There are Related Links to the right of the abstract. These are often relevant. Clicking an author’s name pulls up all the articles by that author. Iterative listing/searches by topic, Related Links and authors give a good overview of what is out there.



19 Cochrane Library database From the homepage: “The Cochrane Library contains high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision- making. It includes reliable evidence from Cochrane and other systematic reviews, clinical trials, and more.” “The Cochrane Collaboration is an international non-profit and independent organization, dedicated to making up-to- date, accurate information about the effects of health care readily available worldwide.” The thrust here is evidence-based information and reviews. Single research projects are unlikely to be here, but such things as reviews, meta-analyses and clinical trials will.



22 FirstSearch Search engine open to all topics and an incredible number of journals, book and other publications. One of the widest-searching of the engines reviewed here. Especially useful for clinical research involving aspects not directly related to medicine (e.g. obesity interventions). Provides electronic full-text article links such as the host institution has purchased access. Allows searches by journal, author, title, keyword, date, etc.

23 FirstSearch OCLC Firstsearch is an online reference search tool that delivers quality content from OCLC’s WorldCat and other quality, respected databases. The UW Library uses Worldcat as the platform for its book catalog and other databases. Using Worldcat, you can select, then search multiple databases with one combined search session.








31 Now what?

32 Critique the Literature Is it relevant to my research? Is the study significant? – Strengths &weaknesses What theories or methods are used?

33 Critique the Literature Is the research biased by emotions or public opinion? Who is the target reader? Public, academic peers, policy makers

34 Final thoughts Literature is an iterative process: find an article, investigate associated links and other works by the author, search specific journals. Be inclusive, but not exhaustive, in citations. You don’t need to list all articles, only those you actually draw data and ideas from. Rule of thumb – stick to references from the past 5 years unless particularly noteworthy.

35 Adapted from Materials available online by: Wiley D. Jenkins, PhD, MPH –Research Associate Professor Department of Family &Community Medicine Associate Director/Center for Clinical Research Southern Illinois University Nola du Toit –Center for Family and Demographic Research Bowling Green State University

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