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MDRP Portal

Finding literature

Biomedical literature reviews always require database searches because...

Database content:

  • is peer-reviewed
  • includes reputable journals
  • excludes commercial sources

Database functionality:

  • allows a systematic search strategy
    • can be reported in final report
    • is replicable and assessable
  • allows advanced search techniques
    • makes searches more efficient
    • targets concepts
    • can account for variations in language and terminology
  • supports reference management


Major biomedical databases include Medline, PubMed, Embase and PsycInfo. More information here.

Depending on your topic these databases may be enough. However you may also need to search:

  • grey literature - government and organisational publications, research reports, white papers etc.
  • subject specific databases
  • citation databases (Scopus, Web of Science) - these allow you to follow citations to seminal papers (available through UoM)
  • the internet generally

Before staring to search make sure you have a clear statement of your question. This allows you to target your search to the most relevant material.

For advice on how to search visit our Guide to literature searching.


Searching is a iterative process, not a one off task.

  • you rarely get it right first time
  • consider your first search to be a scoping process - what is out there? What are the terms used? Are these terms also used in another unrelated area?

As you find and review material new possibilities become apparent...

  • new terminology is identified
  • once you have identified approaches that work you can re-organise your search to make it suitable to include in your review.

Also consider...

  • seminal papers - follow citations to find research on that topic
  • very topical papers - look at references
  • expert authors - what else have they written?
  • centres of excellence on your topic - other publications  - website, peer sharing etc