Step 2: Reviewing the Literature

In preparing your research proposal you’ll want to undertake a review of contemporary evidence. There are many types of reviews, though their underlying purpose is the same, to help you identify gaps in the evidence base, to identify and familiarise you with the strengths of weakness of study designs already used in your topic area, and give credibility to your project findings by being able to discuss your findings in context with previous research.

When planning your search strategy a mind map can help define and scope your topic, prior to searching, by making key themes and search terms transparent. The following resources will be helpful in familiarising yourself with the review process:

Systematic Reviews

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


Databases can be used to identify contemporary evidence in your subject area including journal articles, conference proceeding and reports. The following resources have content tailored to the library and knowledge service community:

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

  • Cochrane Library: A free to use collection of evidence-based medicine databases, including the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 
  • Embase: Similar to MEDLINE, Embase covers more European biomedical research. A subscription service database included in the NICE Evidence suite of databases
  • ERIC (Education Resources Information Center): A free to use international bibliographic database on educational research and practice. Subjects covered include physical education, exercise, sport, nutrition and health 
  • NICE Evidence: Provides 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 for Step 3: Designing Your Study, including the selection of your research methods.