Literature searching (focus on Health Sciences)


It’s very important for students to develop really good literature searching skills, not only for their academic studies, so whilst they’re doing their assignments for their degree programme, but also for when they get out into the professional world as well. So, these kind of skills are really where you can add value to interactions with patients and with colleagues in the workplace, and so, really, we’re talking about very professional, and very employable skills that you can take with you when you’ve finished your degree programme. So, literature searching skills and literature reviewing in nursing today, I think is crucial. We need to develop our knowledge and evidence base to provide patients and their carers with up-to-date evidence so that they can make the best decisions regarding their future care and treatment. Some of the aspects of good practice that I’ve seen is within a module that I teach on, where students are required to produce a poster around looking at an intervention and finding the evidence to support that intervention. And, the students that do this successfully work up a good search strategy, and identify the different terms that they are going to need to successfully find evidence. Examples of good literature searching include: students keeping records of the searches so that they can use the time effectively and plan effectively, and, when the students really demonstrate curiosity and engage in searching several sources to find an answer, not just rely on the first source they find. Examples of sub-optimal practice include students not really engaging with the literature and not seeking education, or not seeking the advice and support available to them. Another, not so good example, is where students use Google or other similar search engines to access websites which might not be evidenced based and just use these sources for evidence within their work. So, I’ve just finished my second placement of my first year and I’ve actually used literature searching skills in practice, which has been very interesting to take it away from an academic setting. The sister on the ward asked me to run a cannula audit and therefore I had to do a bit of research about infection risk and those kind of things, as part of the audit, and therefore I, again, took key phrases, key ideas, and also used NHS Choices to see the language they were using and what references they used, um, to find out the academic side of the cannula audit. So, I used literature searching skills in my very first practice experience. I was in a community mental health setting, which I’d never worked in before, supporting dementia patients. And, we had one particular gentleman admitted who was experiencing very, very high levels of anxiety. And, I was able to go away, into the library, and search for anxiety and Alzheimer’s, and it came up with an article by Duke where it talked about bringing in personal possessions from home including family ‘photos. I talked about this with my mentor, and the patient’s family, and they really liked the idea, and it really helped to calm him down. And then I was able to talk about this in my CLG1 presentation. A key piece of advice I have for current students for literature searching is, first of all, to sort of check your spelling, and I know it sounds a bit funny, but, you’re going to be using both English and American databases, if you’re using English spelling in an American database, sometimes you might find you’re having trouble getting hits. There are Health Sciences pages on the University Library website which has an index of nursing journals that are really helpful, together with tutorials and guides on how to use them effectively. If students are having any problems with searching literature or using any of our online databases, they can always come to me, I’m the Academic Liaison Librarian for the Health Sciences department. So, students can book appointments, or come to one of my regular Library surgeries if they’re struggling with any aspect of literature searching. So that might be, constructing a search strategy, that might be how the particular database works. Please do come and ask for help and then we can, hopefully, give you some pointers and techniques that you can put together. You can also have a look at the Health Sciences subject guide which is available through the Library website and that gives you a lot of advice on how you might construct your searches, and also how you might use some of the databases and put your skills into practice when you’re doing your literature searching.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *