A literature search is a systematic and comprehensive search for information.
The information you search for will inform, underpin and /or shape your research.
A literature search will enable you to find out what has already been written in your subject area and enable you to identify the main trends.
The information can be contained in books, journal articles, reports, case studies, policy documents, conference proceedings etc.
How to undertake a literature search
When searching the Internet or library resources, get the best search results by using some of these search tips:
In order to develop an effective search strategy, you will need to have formulated a clearly defined question. This will allow you to identify appropriate keywords which you can use to search with.
You will also need to consider the resources that you are going to use in order to find information i.e. appropriate journal databases and/or other resources.
It is also important to consider what you want and what you don't want (Inclusion/Exclusion criteria) e.g. language, length of trial/study, publication date etc.
Before you start your literature search use the worksheet below to plan your search strategy. A 'completed' version is included to show how the worksheet is used.
Planning your literature search in this way should help you work in a more systematic way and will provide you with a record of what you have done for when you write up your research methods.
A simplified version (Keywords: Improving your search) can also be used to help you come up with search terms.