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How to find information for science or health based literature reviews

1. How to find information for science or health literature reviews

This is a stack of books next to book shelves.

At university, you will complete a range of assignments. A literature review is a specific type of assignment.

The guide will show you how to find information for literature reviews within Health and the Life Sciences.

Is this the guide for you?

  • The guide is aimed at undergraduate students in their final year and MSc students studying within the Departments of Biosciences and Chemistry, Allied Health Professions and Nursing within the College of Health, Wellbeing and Life Sciences.
  • The guidance here does not replace any assignment specific requirements and you should always thoroughly read and understand what is required for your assignment before you begin writing.

This guide will help you:

  • how to find information for your literature review.
  • apply a structured approach to research.
  • minimise the risk of missing key papers, researchers or highly cited journal articles.
  • the research process should be quicker and more strategic giving you more time to work on the writing!

Limitations of the guide

  • The College of Health, Wellbeing and Life Sciences includes a range of subject disciplines, and this guide is broad in focus which means it may not cover something that is unique to your department or subject area. If you are from another department, we would encourage you check with your teaching team before following any guidance here about literature searching.
  • If you have any doubts or questions about your literature review and the advice provided here, we recommend you contact your teaching team and ask them!

This guide represents between one and two hours of study time.

2. How to use the guide

You can work through the guide in the way that works for you.

  • The guide is split into sections with a navigation menu on the left hand side with next and previous buttons at the end of each page.
  • In each section, the content is arranged in linear order and you scroll down the screen box by box. All the boxes include a title and number.
  • When you see this icon -                              Activity - this is your time to put into practice your skills and complete an activity.

Do I need to read all the guide?

  • It is up to you and we recommend that you do! However, if this is not your first literature review, you could work through the sections that are new to you or where you would like to refresh your knowledge.



Be study kind to yourself!

  • Each section, includes a Take a break box to encourage you to be study kind and take time for a break or a rest from the screen!
  • Maybe stand up and take a walk in the fresh air or maybe grab something to eat or drink, Remember drink to think!

How to make technology work for you.

  • You could use accessibility tools like the Microsoft Immersive Reader. You can use this feature to have the guide read to you whilst you work! You can find out more about using this feature in Step 4 of this handy guide from the Library Skills Centre.
  • You can use keyboard shortcuts to look for a specific word or concept. Whether you are a Windows or a Mac user, there are a range of keyboard shortcuts that you could use.

3. Lets get started!

This is a picture of a light bulb.                Activity 1: To get you thinking about your literature review, watch this video - How to do a literature review - from Northwestern University. This video is within the Sage Research Methods Video Collection. 

This video is here to help get you comfortable with literature reviews before we discuss them in detail.

How to watch the video:

  • Click on the link below - How to do a literature review.
  • Clicking the link will take you into Library Search.
  • We have included a screen shot of the Library Search listing for this video below. This is an image and is not a clickable item.
  • We have provided this to help you understand that you are moving from one resource to another and you need to know how to access the full text of a resource. 
  • You access the video by clicking on the SAGE Research Methods Video I link and if prompted, log in with your SHU login details.

This is a screen shot of a Library Search record.

This is a picture of a light bulb.                Activity 2Boost your academic confidence by assessing your skills. 

Take the online Library Skills Check! You will be asked a series of questions to rate your knowledge and confidence across a range of key academic skills. Your answers will ensure the recommended resources for building your academic skills are personalised and useful to you, whatever your level or mode of study. 

4. Be study kind

Be study kind

Try not to think of a literature review as a linear process.

You may have to revisit or repeat a step: for example you may have to re-run searches or use saved searches to keep up to date with literature, especially if your review is over an extended time period. 

This guide divides the process into small steps to help it feel like a manageable process. You are encouraged to take a break from the guide and activities whenever you need.

Congratulations you have completed your first section! 

Time to take a break - maybe watch a short video about Hallam Library: Curated Reading lists. Where will a book take you today!

Guide credits

We are not experts on whether honey or silver is more effective for wound healing.

However, we are quite interested in the question and have been using the example in Library workshops for a number of years.

This guide is a collaborative piece of work between Subject and Research Librarians from the Hallam Library teams - Library Learning and Teaching Support Team and the Library Research Support Team.