Literature search best practice

Helping you understand and undertake effective searching for literature reviews

An effective literature review is always built on the foundation of a high quality literature search, one that is comprehensive and systematic. And for any new project, a literature search is a crucial early step in the research process.

Finding some literature on a question is usually easy; finding the right literature, and all of the most relevant literature for a solid literature review, is harder.

Through explanatory notes and practical, step-by-step guidance, we aim to help you understand how to effectively plan and carry out your literature searches.  

Who is the guide for? 

Anyone undertaking research or supporting others in their research activities:

  • Students, those new to research, and those who need a refresher in literature searching.
  • Researchers who wish to use a template when planning their literature searching.
  • Librarians who support faculty and students in literature searching.
  • Trainers who teach information literacy.

Choose your next step

Part 1. I want to understand literature searches, literature reviews and critical appraisal

Our explanations of these key terms are designed to help build your understanding of why we undertake literature searches and literature reviews, what critical appraisal is, and hierarchies of evidence.

>> Learn about literature reviews

Part 2. I want instructions and templates for undertaking literature searches for a literature review

We have developed a practical, step-by-guide and templates to help you undertake effective literature searches for your literature reviews. This includes topics such as developing a search strategy.

>> Use the guide 

I want to sign up for a webinar

Join us for a tutorial to help you understand and undertake effective searching for literature reviews, on Wednesday 9 September, 3pm GMT (10am EST) Register

Tell us what you think

We plan to update this guide regularly as resources and techniques evolve. Please feel free to tell us what you think or to suggest additional material. Get in touch with Carol Hollier, Information Literacy and Outreach Manager, at


About the Author

Carol Hollier | IFIS Publishing
Carol Hollier, Information Literacy and Outreach Manager, IFIS Publishing

Before joining IFIS, Carol held previous roles across UK and USA universities, including as a Reference and Instruction Librarian, Academic Subject Librarian and Faculty Team Librarian supporting the School of Biosciences. Her most recent role before moving to IFIS was Senior Librarian, Teaching and Learning Support at the University of Nottingham. 
Carol holds a Master’s in Library and Information Science from Kent State University, a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education from the University of Lincoln, and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.