Literature Searching

Overview and tips on how to conduct a literature search.

Developing the Search Strategy

Once you have collected all of the possible search terms and decided which databases to search, now it is time to construct your search strategy.

To construct your search strategy, combine controlled vocabulary terms, keywords and phrases using words such as "OR" and "AND", known as Boolean operators,  to broaden or narrow your search results.  Boolean operators are powerful tools that are part of a system of logic designed to yield optimal search results. The Boolean operators, AND, OR, and NOT, help you construct a logical search. Boolean operators act by establishing relationships between groups or when you combine sets of search terms and define the relationship between the individual sets.  

Boolean Operators: A Cheat Sheet

Set parameters for your search.

If needed, apply limits and filters to narrow your search. A date limit may be helpful, particularly when a search retrieves too many results. Date limits may also be helpful if your question involves more recent technology, theories or concepts (e.g. social media, telemedicine, smart phones, AI, etc.). You can also limit by

  • publication type, such as review, randomized control trials, case studies, peer-reviewed, scholarly, etc.
  • age, such as child, teen, adult, elderly
  •  or language

Try to Stay organized.

Write down or keep track of the key terms searched, the databases used, and the search parameters applied.

Keep track of your search results. This will help you identify the most effective search terms, eliminate duplicate citations, and ultimately save you time.  

Bottom line: your search strategy will be the cornerstone of a well-conducted literature search that will help identify relevant articles, and ultimately produce the highest quality results.

Search Strategy Checklist and Tips 

Last Updated: Feb 7, 2024 1:26 PM