Searching for Clinical Literature

  • Group: up to 90
  • Length: 50 minutes
  • Room: Any
  • Discipline: Any — it can be tailored
  • Level: U/G
  • Materials: Slides, post-its, flip chart paper, A4 paper, Menti

Suggested online resources:

Learning Outcomes:

  • recognise the type of evidence available to you
  • identify the tools that are available to you to find high-quality evidence
  • plan a literature search

Introduction: Brief explanation of what we will cover and how acknowledging that the students have conducted similar projects in previous years. The workshop will give students an opportunity to practice an approach to searching that you can apply to critical appraised topic (CAT). Searching is a fundamental part of a CAT. Consider the following

· You should know what to record/make notes about

· Recognise the terminology being used

· Recognise the depth of information required for your CAT

Direct instruction: What, Where, and How a five a day approach to search strategies can still be applied. This includes thinking about keywords for searching, where to look and how keywords can link up to create an effective search strategy. To do this well, be more systematic with searching.

Activity: Use Menti to identify what and where. See the images below. (6 mins)

Direct instruction: Creating a successful search strategy is dependant upon identification of relevant terminology and keywords for searching. This requires the application of subject knowledge.

Activity: talk to your neighbour and discuss what words/terms you could use that mean the same thing for the example topic title ‘Oral appliances for obstructive sleep apnoea in children’. Write the words on individual post-its.

Four pieces of flip chart paper stuck on the walls around the room one to represent PICO (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome) The students should stick the post-its on the appropriate sheets around the room. (6 mins)

Direct instruction: Introduce boolean searching and how this can narrow a search along with setting specific limits like the year of publication etc.

Activity: The students should work in pairs and retrieve a selection of post its and work on how to combine keywords together to create a search string. Stick them on a piece of A4 paper and beneath them write up how you will limit your search terms.

Demonstrate the Dentistry subject guide and indicate where the databases live. Ask the students if any are willing to come and perform their search at the front of the classroom alternatively the facilitator can take one of search strings and carry out the search, taking feedback from the students. (9 mins)

Answer questions from the group about the process. (6 mins)

Wrap up: Summarise the strategies and the actions that the students should take. Emphasise the importance of saving the details of searches so that it is easy to write up the project. Support is available in the Library drop-ins and in Bb. Ask SCONUL question in Menti. (5 mins)

Originally published at




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