Skip to Main Content

Literature Search Basics

How can the Library help

 Writing a review? Need help? Schedule an online consultation with a librarian or editor.Meet with an Editor or Librarian

Our Scientific Editors perform both substantive and copy editing of grant proposals, journal articles, and other reports of original research written by MD Anderson physicians and scientists for the professional literature, funding agencies, and other external (non-MD Anderson) audiences. 

Our librarians can provide expert searching for clinical or academic research, and hospital administration. This service is available to the faculty and staff at MD Anderson.

Class Recording: Literature Search Basics

What is a literature search?

A literature search is a systematic search of all relevant literature on a specific topic. The literature search provides evidence to support many academic and clinical functions. The evidence gathered through a literature search can be used to answer a clinical question, write a research, review article or case report; prepare a presentation, write a grant application, and more.

Relevant literature can include journal articles, conference abstracts, books or book chapters, clinical trial registries and more.

Researchers, clinicians, and students search the literature all the time. So how is a literature search different?

As opposed to a background search where you are trying to review a topic, a literature search requires a methodical approach. To complete a literature search you will need:

  • A focused, defined question to guide the search. 
  • A list of databases and other websites that will comprehensively cover the topic.
  • A search strategy that includes keywords and controlled vocabulary
  • A tracking method so your search can be reported and reproduced.

This guide will walk you through the steps required to complete a literature search.