Step 2: Reviewing the Literature

You’ll want to undertake a review of contemporary evidence to help:

  • Identify gaps in the evidence base
  • Identify the strengths of weakness of study designs already used in your topic area
  • Give credibility to your project findings by being able to discuss your findings in the context of previous research.

A mind map may help to define and scope your topic by identifying key themes and search terms.

The following resources will help with the review process:

Systematic Reviews

If you plan to undertake a systematic review the following resources provide guidance on systematic review processes and reporting:


Databases can be used to identify contemporary evidence in your subject area.  This includes journal articles, conference proceeding and reports.

The following resources have content tailored to the library and knowledge service community:

Your  research subject may relate to a broader clinical area.  The following databases provide access to research and references in the clinical and health management sectors.

  • Cochrane Library – a free collection of evidence-based medicine databases, including the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 
  • ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) – free to use international bibliographic database on educational research and practice. Subjects covered include physical education, exercise, sport, nutrition and health 
  • NICE Evidence – access to multiple bibliographical databases including MEDLINE, CINAHL and Embase, and over 800 full text journals. You need an NHS OpenAthens username and password to access these resources
  • PubMed – a free to use search engine which primarily accesses the MEDLINE biomedical database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics

Critical Appraisal

You’ll want to assess the trustworthiness, value and relevance of any research to your context, a process called critical appraisal. Here are some resources to get you started:

Library and Knowledge Service Journals

The following journals are key sources for LKS research:

Next Steps

Once you’ve developed your research question (Step 1) and reviewed the literature you’re ready to design your study and select your research methods.  Go to Step 3.