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Conducting a detailed literature search – part 1

In this video, part one, of a two part series, Fiona introduces the art of developing search terms to assist in research literature searches

Google Scholar is a great, simple way to introduce ourselves to searching for research literature. If we want to begin our research journey in earnest, though, we need to acquaint ourselves with a more useful and complex set of skills.

In this first of a two-part series, Fiona Rees introduces us to the art of developing search terms and using these to find precisely what we need in a specialist, online database.

By the end of part two of this video series (the next step) you should be able to:

  • Understand how to formulate a search strategy for a clinical database search using PICO
  • Understand how to tailor your search to find the best evidence to answer your question

In this first part, Fiona will cover the following topics:

  • What do we want to search for and why?
  • What is PICO and how can it help you in your literature search?
  • How to consider which database to use


In the video, Fiona talks about PICO. Below is a reminder of what PICO stands for, for your reference.

  • Population
  • Intervention
  • Comparison
  • Outcome of Interest

Athens Login

In the video, Fiona talks about the NHS library and Knowledge hub which is a platform that enables you to access many databases for literature searches. To access this, you will need an Athens account. Please note that not everyone is able to have an Athens account – to check if you work for an organisation that is eligible, please visit the link below.

If you are not eligible or cannot access an Athens login, there are still databases you can access and apply the same theories that Fiona discusses in these videos. For example:

Some of the databases mentioned in the video are more commonly used by those who work in clinical settings. Many of the articles within these databases are still useful for learners who work in other professions, so as researchers, please don’t exclude them on the basis that the research has been conducted within another discipline.

Please note, that while some databases will allow you free access to complete articles, if your organisation does not have permissions in place, you may find that you cannot use certain research databases and some databases may only allow you access summaries.

As discussed in the previous step, Google Scholar is a fantastic tool. If you conduct a search with Google Scholar and discover you need full access to an article, we suggest you speak to your employer to ask if they are able to arrange access for you to ensure you can complete your work.

Please note that for social workers and those working in social care, some Local Authorities purchase licences for ‘Research in Practice’ and ‘Research in Practice for adults’ so please explore this.

Do you use research databases to inform your practice? If so, which ones do you find useful?

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