Literature review

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Literature review

A literature review is a systematic, explicit, and reproducible method to identify, evaluate, and synthesize the existing published literature on a topic. It may include scholarly articles, textbooks, or websites. There are important steps to start your literature review:

  1. Select search question
  2. Select your search source
  3. Select the search terms
  4. Run your search

Search Question

Search question could be broad or narrow based on the specific topic that you want to contribute. Questions related to the microchapters that need general information, such as pathophysiology could be started with broad questions, such as what is the pathogenesis of diabetes mellitus? And then be narrowed accordingly like, what is the role of beta cells dysfunction in pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes? Or even very narrow question like, what is the effect of the potassium pump block for insulin secretion in beta cells in type 2 diabetes?

Select Search Source

There are many different resources available including:

  • Bibliographic databases:
PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane library
  • Websites:
Associations, Organizations, and Government, such as WHO, CDC, ...
  • Others:
Web search

Serach Terms

To have a specific search result you need to select proper terms and use Key Operators in those search engines.

For example if you are looking for role of microvascular endothelial inflammation in heart failure, you need to search the ''Microvascular endothelial inflammation'' AND ''Heart failure'' to narrow your search result. Following you may find the commonly used Key Operators.

Operator Command Example
* Find alternative endings to the word. Endo* (will find endocardium, endothelium, endocrine,...)
.tw. Search for this term in the title and abstract.
adj Search for 1 term within X number of terms from another. Patient adj3 anxiety (will find patient within 3 words of anxiety)
AND Find articles where both terms appear Myocardial infarction AND Smoking
OR Find articles where either term appears Smoking OR Tobacco

How To Search Pubmed MeSH database

  • The pubmed MeSH database can be used to search for MeSH terms that include heading, sub-headings and publications.
  • MeSH is a vocabulary thesaurus used for indexing articles on pubmed.
  • To perform a search for your topic, select "MeSH' from the scroll down menu on the top left hand corner on the pubmed home page.
  • After selecting MeSH from the scroll down menu, type in your search query in the search bar.
  • Choose the appropriate term from the drop down suggestions.
  • Click search.
  • This will take you to a hierarchy of headings and sub-headings associated with your search query or topic.
  • Select the appropriate headings/sub-headings by check marking them.
  • Click "Add to search builder" on the right side of the page.
  • Click "search with pubmed".
  • This will enlist the relevant articles of your search.
  • Click the appropriate filters on the left hand side of the page, for example, human/animal species, timeline of articles etc.
  • The use of this "explosion menu" of pubmed MeSH database will enable you to make your search on pubmed refined, targeted and relevant.

Run Your Search

  • When you have selected your search question, search engine, and search terms then you can run your search in that specific search engine, such as PubMed.
  • Another way to find required information regarding a specific topic, is to search for review articles in some prestigious journals, such as, The New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, or Circulation. and find the original articles that were used in that review article.
  • You may find a good source for your topic in guidelines that are categorized as the highest reputable sources. There are different ways to find the appropriate guideline. The simplest way is to Google every possibilities that may be redirect you to the guideline. For example: Search for hypothyroidism guideline. The other way is to search in society guideline section of Uptodate to find the required guideline.