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How to find information for science or health based literature reviews

1 - Welcome

This is a stack of books next to book shelves.

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

Is this the guide for me?

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.

Read before using this guide! 

  • This guide has been written to support students undertaking literature reviews within the Departments of Biosciences and Chemistry, Allied Health Professions and Nursing within the College of Health and Wellbeing and Life Sciences. 
  • 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 any advice provided here... check with the person that set your assignment!
  • 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.

How will this guide help you when working on your literature review:

  • you will be given advice on how to find information
  • we will look at how to apply a structured approach to research
  • the risk of missing key papers, researchers or highly cited journal articles will be minimised
  • the research process should be quicker and more strategic giving you more time to work on the writing!


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

The study time given does vary to factor in the range of pre existing expertise and knowledge about how library resources work and how search techniques can be used in your search for information at university.  Some tasks may take longer than others and if you read all the resources that are linked to from the guide and the journal articles, then the study time may be longer.

2 - How to use the guide

You can work through the guide section by section or start with the section that covers the information you need. You can then read the text, watch the videos and try the activities. Your choice! 

Accessibility tools and keyboard shortcuts

You could also use the  Microsoft Immersive Reader Tools and 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 Skills Centre.

Looking for a specific word or concept? Use the keyboard shortcut - CTRL + F - to search and find the work on the page.

3 - 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. The process has been divided into 12 steps and some steps are more complex than others! 

You are encouraged to take a break from the guide and activities whenever you need.

Ask questions

If something is unclear or you would like ask a question about the review process, then get in contact using Library Chat or drop in to Library Virtual Drop-In - Every Wednesday, 4-6pm.

4 - Lets get started!

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

We will return to the topic of What is a literature review is in Step 2. This video is here to get you comfortable with literature reviews before we discuss them in detail.

How to watch the video:

  • You click on the link above - How to do a literature review - and you be taken 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 Access content in SAGE publications link and if prompted, log in with your SHU login details.

This is an image of the Library Search listing of the recommended video for watching.


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

There are lots of ways that you could do this. You can assess your skills by taking the online Skills Check with the Skills Centre.

Take the skills check with the Skill Centre

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. 

5 - I would like to know more...

Guide credits

Just to add, we are not experts on whether honey or silver is more effective for wound healing but 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.