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Searching the Literature: The Basics

Learn how to effectively search the literature with tips on asking questions, selecting resources, and developing search terms.

Select a Search Resource


  • The type of question you are asking (qualitative vs. quantitative)
  • The kind of information you'll need to answer that question (textbooks, journal articles, statistics, etc.) 

The information below can help you identify the most relevant resources for your search. 

Search Resources by Question Type

What type of question are you asking?


Background Questions are best answered by: 

  • Textbooks
  • Reference resources
  • Other sources of established knowledge  (encyclopedias, directories, atlases, etc.). 

These resources could be available in print or online.  

The tools listed below are great starting points when looking for background information.


Foreground Questions are best answered by research evidence found in:

  • Academic journal articles 
  • Grey literature (e.g. clinical trial registries, conference presentations)

You can search multiple sources of evidence simultaneously using an article database.

Discover article databases for specific disciplines/specialties in the box below.

Search Resources by Discipline/Specialty

What disciplines would be interested in answering your question?


Click on disciplines of interest to see a list of relevant article databases:

Other Search Resources

Are you searching for any of the following types of specialized information?



Clinical Practice Guidelines

Government Publications

Tools or Instruments

Drug Information

Multimedia (Images, Videos, etc.)