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Barwon Health Library Service: Searching for Literature

Evidence for Excellence

Searching for the Literature

A literature search is a systematic thorough search of all types of literature in your area.  Searching should be done on specific research databases to ensure a comprehensive search of evidence based / peer reviewed literature.

Planning your literature search involves:

  • Clarifying your research question / what to search for 
  • Where to search
  • Search techniques
  • Evaluating the information
  • Organising the information

Book a Consultation with a librarian for further help with your literature searching.

Request a Literature Search

  • Barwon Health staff may request literature searches for patient care, teaching, professional development, research, policy/protocol development, or management purposes.
  • For staff completing assignments, the Library will assist with search strategy design and database training but will not provide a literature search service.
  • This service is only available to members of the Barwon Health Library Services. To join the library click here

Databases to Search

The library has put together a recommended list of databases for you to search for your literature

  • Research Databases - 
    • you can filter your databases to search by using dropdown menu at the top of the page.
  • Grey Literature Databases - 
    • Grey literature is defined as material created by government agencies, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not published by commercial publishers and is not indexed in bibliographic databases.


RefWorks is a reference management system where you can:

  1. Collect citations
  2. Manage citations, by folder or a searchable database
  3. Cite using proper formatting in a variety of citation styles (e.g. APA, AMA, Vancouver, etc)
  4. Share research with colleagues

Since RefWorks is accessible from the web, it can be used from any computer connected to the internet.

Click Here for more information on setting up your Refworks account

Literature Searching Strategy

By being systematic in your literature searching you will obtain results that are more relevant to your information needs.

The library has developed a Literature Searching Strategy Planner to help you to refine your search question and develop your search in a strategic way.

For information on accessing your articles please refer to Accessing Articles from your Literature Searching

Book a Consultation if you need any expert assistance with your literature searching.

For more information on Evidence Based Practice and Evidence Based Literature see our Evidence Based Practice in Health information page


PICO is one type of framework to develop an evidence based practice literature search strategies.

The acronym stands for:

  • P - Patient, Problem, or Population (What is the condition or disease?)
  • I - Intervention (What do you want to do with this patient?)
  • C - Comparison, or Control, or Comparator (What is the alternative to the intervention?)
  • O - Outcome (What are the relevant outcomes?)
  • May add T – type of question – diagnosis/Harm, Therapy, prognosis, prevention, and/or S – study – what would be the best study design/methodology
  • Note that your clinical question may not use all the sections in PICO when building your search strategy.

You can also consider alternatives to PICO. including SPIDER, COPES, ECLIPSE, PIPOH, PECODR etc) based on field of study (eg: medicine, OT, social work, speech pathology, oncology etc).

Kloda LA., Bartlett JC (2014) Formulating Answerable Questions: Question Negotiation in Evidence-based Practice. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association / Journal De L’Association Des Bibliothèques De La Santé Du Canada, 34(2), 55-60. 

Please contact us or Book a Consultation for more information on using PICO or other evidence based literature searching tools

Types of Reviews

As you start to search through the literature for evidence you will come across different types of reviews or studies. 

Some of these studies may include:

  • A Literature Review which provides an overview of a topic.
  • A Systematic Review which addresses a clinical question
  • A Meta-Analysis which combines data from other studies
  • A Narrative Literature Review which critiques and summarises a body of literature about a topic

See our Types of Reviews Guide for a more comprehensive list of descriptions of the different review types 

Joanna Briggs Institute has developed some Critical Appraisal Tools  which contains checklists to critically appraise the different  studies and reviews        

PICO Widget for searching OVID Resources


P: Patient, Population, Problem or disease
    who are the patients, what is the problem
I: Intervention or Issue
    what we do to them, what are they exposed to
C: Comparison intervention or issue
    what do we compare the intervention with
O: Outcome
    what happens, what is the outcome