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Conducting a Literature Review for Health Sciences: Exploring a Topic

Exploratory Research

To gain an overview of content and vocabulary, especially when searching a new topic, consider searching...

  • Subject encyclopedias or other reference works (handbooks, dictionaries, etc.)
  • Undergraduate textbooks
  • Review articles
  • Annual reviews
  • Consult with scholars in the field (e.g. your advisor)

    When consulting the literature, you will also get foundational knowledge of the seminal theories, authors, works and themes on that topic.


Brainstorm search terms

  • It's a good idea to keep track of the search terms you use when looking for information because it will increase the relevance of your results and save you time overall. You can do this by noting the database(s) you used and the successful terms in a search log.
  • When you find an article or resource that is relevant or close to what you're looking for, note the subject terms, or author-supplied keywords associated with it. You may have to search for awhile before hitting upon the best search terms for your topic. Be sure to try that term in databases you've already searched!