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How to Search the Literature (Advanced)

This guide offers an eight step approach from identifying your topic to managing your search strategy and results

Select a Resource to Search

The nature of your research question will help guide you in selecting resources. When searching the medical literature, it is recommended that you begin your search in Ovid Medline.

Commonly Used Databases

For the full list of health databases please see the A-Z List.

Grey Literature

The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature (GL '99) in Washington, DC, in October 1999 defined grey literature as follows:

"That which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers."

Examples include:

  • clinical trials
  • conference proceedings
  • research institute publications
  • government documents
  • dissertations (theses)

Please see the Finding Grey Literature LibGuide for more information.


Identify Additional Articles

  • Scan the table of contents of relevant journals

    • Note: use Web of Science Journal Citation Report to identify the top journals in a specified field

  • Scan the reference lists of relevant articles

  • Contact authors in the field to identify unpublished or ongoing research

    • Experts in the field can perhaps let you know if you identified all of the relevant literature

  • Consider using the "related articles" feature in databases such as Pubmed, Ovid, or Web of Science 

  • Look for articles that cited an article of interest using the 'Cited by' feature in Web of Science or Google Scholar