It's really important in Nursing and Midwifery to be able to find good quality, up-to-date literature and information, because you need to base your work on reliable evidence that it is suitable for your needs. Good research skills are therefore crucial in both your academic studies and professional practice. The resources in this section will help you to develop these skills.
You can find the relevant databases in the Journals and Databases tab. You may also need to use evidence-based research resources as part of your work - you can find these in the Evidence-Based Practice Resources tab.
How to Search is a resource produced by the library which aims to give students a general introduction to the process of searching for evidence. It covers the different stages of the process of searching for information, including:
The resource includes videos, interactive activities, and downloadable documents to support your independent learning. How to Search is not subject-specific, but it is particularly useful if you are new to literature searching or would like a refresher of the basics.
To support you at all the stages of your research, we have a handy reading list of titles covering researching in this field, compiled by the Subject Librarians who support HWLS: Research and Study Skills for Nursing, Allied Health Professions and Social Work reading list. All of the books on this list are available from Hallam Library and all are available in online formats. It contains resources about research methods, evidence-based practice, conducting a literature review, and study skills. Most of these titles begin at the basics so it's a good idea to get yourself into a couple of them before you start!
How to Search is a good introduction to how to search but for students on health and social care courses you need to have more in-depth skills.
The resources in this section focus specifically on the skills you need to search for evidence comprehensively and effectively. These skills are transferable across all the databases you will need to use. Remember, you should search across a range of databases relevant to your research topic, to ensure you are capturing all of the available evidence and literature.
The videos in this box will help you to develop the skills you need in finding and evaluating your evidence.
To compliment these resources, you can use our handy workbook to help you work through constructing your research strategy. The workbook is called Planning Your Search Strategy and is available to download here: Planning your Search Strategy Workbook
The book below (available through the library as an ebook and in print) provides a step-by-step guide simplifies the process of reviewing published literature, provides a guide to searching, appraising and comparing literature, and offers practical tips on writing up. Why do a literature review? What literature is relevant? How do I appraise my findings? How do I present my literature review?
These really short videos talk you through the process of constructing a literature search. Beginning with the theory of why you need to use good quality academic resources and the process of searching for literature and evidence, they move through identifying key concepts - which form the basis of your key words and phrases - and onto the resources you need to use to find literature and evidence to support your work.
PICO and SPIDER are methodologies you can use to help you identify your research articles. The one you use depend on the type of research you are looking for. The below articles outline how to use two of the most popular research methodologies for Health research - PICO and SPIDER. You may be asked to use them to evidence your research strategy.
Once you have found your evidence to support your literature review, you will need to evaluate what you have found. Here are some useful resources to help you do that:
This short video by TedEd talks you through some tips on how to make sense of the information you are reading: how to read an academic paper. This is a very specific skill you need to develop, to be able to make the best use of the information you find in an academic paper.
As you progress through your studies, you will need to think about becoming more systematic and comprehensive in your searching of the resources. You'll need to begin refining your research to suit your own needs, and there are some useful tools within the databases to help you do this. The video below demonstrates how to apply your search strategy to a specific database (Medline) and then refine your search using the filters within the database
To build on your learning from the resources above, here is a link to a more detailed guide about how to find information for science or health based literature reviews.
This guide takes you through a step-by-step process of finding and selecting the evidence for your literature review in the science and health subjects. Divided into 12 steps, the guide will help you get the most out of doing your literature review, whether that is a stand-alone piece of work, or as part of a wider project that involves writing a literature review as part of the process.
You can either follow the guide from beginning to end, or select the part of the process you want to know more about.
The guide will help you:
As well as books and articles, you may need to find other types of literature to help with your discussion or argument. These resources are commonly referred to as 'grey literature'. The term 'grey literature' refers to resources which are not from an academic publication or a commercial source, such as policy documents, government reports, internal guidance, NICE guidelines, etc.
Unlike academic journals in databases, grey literature is not generally brought together in one consistent place. However, there are lots of sources of grey literature that you can use:
A simple and effective way to keep a record of your search strategy is to create a table where you can include key information about each of the searches you run. Here is an example of how your table might look:
|Database||Keywords/Phrases||Alternative Keywords/Database Headings||Limits / filters||Number of results||Notes/Reflections|
|Medline||anxiety AND fast heartbeat||3||Try other key terms|
|(anxiety OR worry OR panic) AND (fast heartbeat OR tachycardia) [tachycardia - database heading]||
You may be asked to create a PRISMA Flow Diagram to show where you have found your evidence (most likely only for your final research project). Keeping accurate records of your searches, as described above, is an important step in doing this. If you are unsure whether you need to create a PRISMA diagram, check with your tutor.
These links from the creators of PRISMA guide you through creating your PRISMA Flow Diagram:
There are many different critical appraisal tools you can use. Here are a few of the most commonly used:
CASP - Critical Appraisal Skills Programme: https://casp-uk.net/casp-tools-checklists/
Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine: https://www.cebm.ox.ac.uk/resources/ebm-tools/critical-appraisal-tools
Joanne Briggs Institute: https://joannabriggs.org/critical-appraisal-tools
AMSTAR (for systematic reviews only): https://amstar.ca/
Mixed Methods Appraisal: http://mixedmethodsappraisaltoolpublic.pbworks.com/w/page/24607821/FrontPage
There are others that you can use, for instance the Hawker method:
Hawker S, Payne S, Kerr C, Hardey M, Powell J. Appraising the evidence: reviewing disparate data systematically. Qual Health Res 2002;12:1284–99. 10.1177/1049732302238251 (find online here:
You may also be given guidance by your tutors on which method to use. Check your module documents or ask your tutor!
Referencing Your Critical Appraisal Tool
When citing and referencing a critical appraisal tool, use the same format as for a website. For example:
Critical Appraisal Skills Programme. (2020). CASP Checklist*. Retrieved from: https://casp-uk.net/casp-tools-checklists/
*reference the checklist you have used, ie CASP Randomised Control Trial Checklist
If you are doing a systematic review, you might want to take a look at these resources which will help you to undertake your systematic review.