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Searching for evidence: Literature reviews

LKC Searching for evidence guide includes literature searching & reviews, evidence based practice resources and research support

Planning your literature search and review

Allow enough time for:

  1. planning and conducting the search; and refining your results
  2. reading and assessing (appraising) your findings
  3. writing up the review

Book a time in with LKC if you need assistance with the search strategy.

  • Clarify your question using PICO, PICo, PICOS or SPICE / SPIDER approach - depending on the question and study type.
  • Create a list of subject headings (eg MeSH) and keywords for your search.
  • Think about alternative and related keywords and subjects to include in your search.

See following resources for how to review literature search results and writing a literature review.

Research databases and products

Identify the best database(s) to search  - go to CKN Databases A-Z list page. Click on More Details against each database link to view descriptions.

Each database has a specific subject or specialty focus. You may need to search several databases to make sure you've covered all the published and / or grey literature.

Why search PubMed and Medline? Because, while there is a lot of overlap, these databases may contain some unique material or retrieve different results. PubMed has more and broader current content. See the National Library of Medicine (US) fact sheet below.


EndNote is a referencing tool that is available to all Queensland Health employees. The Cairns LKC offers training in EndNote, as well as ongoing support and troubleshooting. Please see our EndNote page for more detailed information.

CEBM Oxford YouTube channel - Search Strategy

CEBM Oxford. Finding the evidence 2 - Turning search terms into a search strategy

CEBM Oxford. Finding the evidence 3 - Turning your search strategy into results: PubMed demonstration

Contact us

+61 7 4226 6679

Tips for effective literature searching

Consider your keywords and how you will search them. For example:

  • American vs British spelling
  • Different word endings like singular vs plural
  • Different words for the same concept (eg teens, adolescents, youths)
  • Use truncation (*) or wild cards (?) to retrieve alternatives : eg child* (for child / children / child's etc) OR wom?m (women or woman) OR p#ediatrics (British vs American spelling)
  • Phrase searching. Use quote marks, eg "chest pain"

Consider using mapping or suggest subject features on databases to find Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). Note: subject headings may change between databases to reflect the discipline or specialty.

Understand the difference between using AND or OR to connect separate keywords / subjects or search statements. These connecting words are referred to as "Boolean operators".

Use a step by step approach to track your results and enable you to make changes as you go.

See LKC Literature (Database) searching tips handout for more detailed help.

Literature search request

Cairns & Hinterland and Torres & Cape HHS staff can register with Cairns Hospital Library & Knowledge Centre.

For Queensland health staff only. Contact your local Queensland health library to request assistance with literature searches.

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