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Conducting a simple literature search

A video giving a brief demonstration of Google Scholar

Being able to conduct a literature search is a really useful skill for anyone interested in research.

This video demonstrates how you can conduct a basic literature search using Google Scholar. Google Scholar is a freely accessible web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines (Wikipedia).

This platform allows us to begin developing our research retrieval skills by simply heading to and entering our search term.

While undoubtedly useful, especially for someone just getting into research, Google Scholar has its limitations. For example, the search function is less sophisticated compared with other specialist search engines. Search results may also include items that have not been subject to peer-review (independently review by a subject-matter expert prior to publication) – a novice researcher may not be able to accurately assess the scientific quality of the work they engage with.

In the next step, below, Fiona Rees provides a deep-dive into developing more in depth literature searches using dedicated health and social care databases and introduces techniques to optimise your search terms.

Regardless of which literature search engine a researcher uses, it is important to note that search engines will find research based on key information usually located in the author details, title, a set of keywords or the abstract (scientific summary of the article). There is no guarantee that a researcher will be able to access the full-text version of the research article that they have found in a search. Some journals and articles will have restrictions on access. For example, researchers may only be able to access the abstract of a paper that they find through a literature search engine. We cover the publication process and describe more about open access publishing in Week 8.

After you have watched the video, have a go at searching using Google Scholar. How did you get on? Write about your experience in the comments below. How did other learners find it?

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Starting Out in Health and Social Care Research

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