Searching the Literature

Literature searches can help you to develop and refine your research ideas. It also helps you to integrate learning into your programs from elsewhere.

How to search

Search terms should be defined as precisely as possible. They should also be applied consistently across databases and websites.

To develop your search terms, first record the essential elements of your query (e.g., children, FASD, etc). Make a list of synonyms, alternative spellings and related terms that you would want to include. Then, decide how these terms will be combined in your searches (e.g. with “AND” or “OR” or “NOT”).

To help focus your search, some search engines will allow you to establish inclusion and exclusion criteria based on geography, language, study design, and year of publication.

How to understand

Once you have the papers you are seeking in hand, it is important to critically appraise what you are reading so that you can determine how much weight the conclusions hold. Also, individual research findings may appear to be disjointed. It is important to integrate individual studies to help progress our knowledge on a subject.

Additonal Resources: