Request a literature search

On this page you will find information about the literature searching service offered by the Francis Costello Library.

What is a literature search?
A literature search is a detailed, comprehensive and systematic high-level search of the literature (published and unpublished) from a variety of sources about specific topics or conditions. The search yields a set of results- usually a summary (known as abstracts) – of studies carried out on the topic or condition you have searched about.  Reading the results enables you to get an overview of what is known about the topic. This is often referred to as the ‘evidence base’.

We offer two levels of literature search:

Standard literature searches (Copy of search strategy, sources searched and list of result abstracts)

Synthesized literature searches (Copy of search strategy, sources searched, list of result abstracts and a brief narrative summary of key articles)

Why undertake a literature search?
There are many reasons for undertaking a literature search – including:

  • to help inform your decision making when treating a patient. This is known as evidence-based practice
  • keeping up to date with the latest advances and thinking with a specific topic or condition
  • your own professional development
  • in relation to research,  if you are seeking to make an original contribution to the evidence base, you firstly need to discover the existing knowledge of the topic

This is not a prescriptive list – however it does demonstrate that literature searching has many purposes, especially in the context of health and social care.

Why ask the library to do the search for me?

  1. It will save you a lot of time! Literature searching is, by definition, time-consuming
  2. You can be sure that the search strategy is properly planned, and that a thorough and comprehensive search of all the relevant databases and information sources has been undertaken on your behalf
  3. It is free for you! Because of the skills and time required to carry out literature searches, some libraries charge for this service.  However, the Francis Costello Library does not charge RJAH staff for this service.

If you prefer, you can carry out your own literature searches. For information on how we can help you with this please see our information skills training page.

How do I ask the library to do a literature search for me?
You can request a literature search in a variety of ways:

  • Fill in the online form Please specify whether you are requesting a Standard or Synthesized search. Standard search results are normally supplied within 3 working days. The additional complexity of a Synthesized search means that it will take longer, and results are usually supplied within 7 working days.
  • Download this PDF, complete it and send it to the library
  • Visit the library or contact us by telephone or email

When you request a literature search, try to provide as much information as possible. If you submit a literature search request remotely, we may ring you to clarify or seek further information. This is to ensure that we have a good grasp of the topic before we begin the search. For example, we might ask you what you are looking for in the search results or how many results you expect there might be.

When will I get the search results?
Our quality standard is to supply you with the results of a Standard literature search within 3 working days and Synthesized literature search results within 7 working days.

If you require the results urgently, in cases where patient care is implicated, we will endeavour to do what we can within a reasonable time scale. In these circumstances we will ring you to discuss this.

How will the search results be presented and supplied?
The results will be supplied in a Word document, usually emailed to you but we can supply it in hard copy, printed format  if you prefer.

At the top of the document will be the title of the search you supplied us,  along with any other search parameters previously agreed with you (e.g. language restrictions, date parameters, etc.)

Then the search strategy will be listed so that  you can see the search terms and databases (or other information sources) we used.

The search results will then follow.  The exact format of the search results can vary according to your own preferences/requirements and also the source of information which the results were drawn from. Standard and Synthesized literature search results both contain the following level of detail. Synthesized search results also contain a brief evaluative report of the main findings.

  • Title:
    The title of the publication (journal article, book chapter etc.)
  • Citation:
    Publication title, Month / Year, vol./is. page numbers
  • Author(s):
    All of the authors of the publication etc.
  • Language:
    The language in which the publication is written
  • Abstract:
    This is a summary of the article etc. and usually from reading the abstract you are able to decide whether or not you are interested in obtaining the full version of the publication
  • Publication Type:
    e.g. Journal: Article, Systematic Review, etc.
  • Source:
    If this search result has been obtained from one of the healthcare databases which the NHS pays for, it will tell you which database the result is from
  • Full Text:
    If the full text of the publication is available to you either in print in the Francis Costello Library, or electronically with an RJAH ATHENS password, it will say so here. [if neither of these options are listed the library can obtain it for you. See Request a journal article).

If there are many results we might contact you to ask if it is possible to refine your search. Alternatively we might propose that we supply the initial results in a shortened format (reference only, without abstracts) and we will then supply you with the abstracts of those results which are of most interest to you.  It should be noted that this is a very rare occurrence.

How do I use the search results?
The search results are yours to keep and use for whatever  purpose you require.  You may wish to obtain the full text of some publications which are not available to you freely via RJAH ATHENS password or the library’s own holdings. See Request a journal article for details. If the search results are not what you anticipated and you feel the search needs refining, please contact us to discuss this. 

Do you conduct surveys on the results of literature searches?
We incorporate an electronic link to a brief online survey in the email which accompanies every literature search report. This helps us to evaluate the impact of the search results in your work/patient care. We are very grateful for your assistance with this, as it is important that the library is able to demonstrate our value to the organization. If you do not complete the survey (and we very much hope that you do), we will not contact you about it again. 

Are there any limitations or restrictions with the literature searching service?

  1. We do not undertake searches for students or for educational purposes e.g. essays or assignments
  2. Complex requests for information often take several hours to undertake and can only be carried out by a professional librarian. In circumstances where the user’s deadline is deemed to be unreasonable, the library will endeavour to negotiate a different deadline with the user or else default to the standard of three working days.
  3. In very rare circumstances where unforeseen circumstances prevent us from meeting our quality standard, we will notify you.

Examples of literature searches

Use of simulation tools for training in arthroscopy

Nutrition & hydration in hospital patients in UK

Infection control in hospital

Role and benefits of the clinical placement facilitator

Use of Vit D in the treatment of fibromyalgia

Request a literature search:

Online form

Download PDF

Literature search enquiries:

Tel: 01691 404388