Steps to Search the Literature for Evidence

Use these steps to conduct your search -- and adapt them as you see fit. (Keep in mind that searching for literature is an iterative process!)  

  1. Define your research question
    ​Use a question framework to structure and define your research question. This will help you structure and build your search strategy.
  2. Plan your search approach
    Identify what databases and gray literature sources you will search. How will you organize the results of your searches? How will you screen the searches for inclusion in your review?
  3. Document your process.
    Keep track of the databases you search, when you searched them, the search strategies that you used, and how many results were found with your searches. This will help you to feel more in control of the search process.

Using Review Articles

Review articles are scholarly articles that describe and summarize a body of research or knowledge on a particular topic.  These can be useful in getting to know more about a topic and beginning to understand where gaps in the literature exist (i.e., what questions still need to be answered). 

Review articles can be found in the many scholarly research databases available through the library.  See the "Searching the Literature" section of this guide to learn more about the databases that cover topics such as sociology, psychology and public policy.

To find review articles,  do a search in one of these database, for example Web of Science.  Most databases will allow you to refine your search by document type.  Choose 'Reviews' to narrow your search to review articles only.

Note:  Reveiw articles and peer-reviewed articles are not the same!  Peer-reveiw refers to scholarly literature that has gone through a rigorous review and revision process prior to publication.  This can include review articles, but also empirical studies (which are NOT review articles).


In Web of Science:


Refine your search to review to limit the results to review articles that can provide useful overviews or summaries of a body of literature