Before You Search the Literature: How to Prepare and Get the Most Out of Citation Databases

Jacqueline M. McGrath, Roy E. Brown, Haifa A. Samra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


As evidence-based practice becomes more integrated into routine care, systematically searching of the literature is essential to making informed clinical decisions. To uncover all the evidence and get the most unbiased sense of what is known about a particular phenomenon or caregiving practice, a clear method of searching that is systematic is needed. This article provides a discussion of six steps in a systematic search: (1) constructing the question, (2) choose the appropriate database(s), (3) formulate a search strategy, (4) perform the search, (5) evaluate the results, (6) good results (answer the question) = use the search information, (7) bad results = start over (refine the search strategies). Tips for working with a librarian are also provided. Lastly, a checklist developed to facilitate the steps of the searching process is discussed and provided for use by readers. Nurses are not trained to systematically search the literature, yet evidence-based practice demands that nurses and all health professionals be familiar with the searching process, especially when making evidence-based caregiving decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-170
Number of pages9
JournalNewborn and Infant Nursing Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Citation databases
  • Integrated reviews
  • Literature searches
  • Systematic reviews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics


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