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Searching the Public Health & Medical Literature More Effectively: Literature Review Help

Writing Guides, Manuals, etc.

Literature Review Tips Handouts

Write about something you are passionate about!

Ten simple rules for writing a literature review.
Pautasso M. PLoS Comput Biol. 2013;9(7):e1003149. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003149

Conducting the Literature Search.
Chapter 4 of Chasan-Taber L. Writing Dissertation and Grant Proposals: Epidemiology, Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics. New York: Chapman and Hall/CRC, 2014.

A step-by-step guide to writing a research paper, from idea to full manuscript. Excellent and easy to follow blog post by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega.

Data Extraction

Data extraction answers the question “what do the studies tell us?”

At a minimum, consider the following when extracting data from the studies you are reviewing (source):

  • Only use the data elements relevant to your question;
  • Use a table, form, or tool (such as Covidence) for data extraction;
  • Test your methods and tool for missing data elements, redundancy, consistency, clarity.

Here is a table of data elements to consider for your data extraction. (From University of York, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination).

Critical Reading

As you read articles, write notes. You may wish to create a table, answering these questions:

  • What is the hypothesis?
  • What is the method? Rigorous? Appropriate sample size? Results support conclusions?
  • What are the key findings?
  • How does this paper support/contradict other work?
  • How does it support/contradict your own approach?
  • How significant is this research? What is its special contribution?
  • Is this research repeating existing approaches or making a new contribution?
  • What are its strengths?
  • What are its weaknesses/limitations?

From: Kearns, H. & Finn, J. (2017) Supervising PhD Students: A Practical Guide and Toolkit. AU: Thinkwell, p. 103.

Submitting to a Journal? First Identify Journals That Publish on Your Topic

Through Scopus

  1. Visit the Scopus database.
  2. Search for recent articles on your research topic.
  3. Above the results, click “Analyze search results."
  4. Click in the "Documents per year by source" box.
  5. On the left you will see the results listed by the number of articles published on your research topic per journal.

Through Web of Science

  1. Visit the Web of Science database.
  2. Search for recent articles on your research topic.
  3. In the results, click "Analyze Results" on the right hand side.
  4. From the drop-down menu near the top left, choose "Publication Titles."
  5. Change the "Minimum record count (threshold)," if desired.
  6. Scroll down for a table of results by journal title.

Writing Help @UCB

Here is a short list of sources of writing help available to UC Berkeley students, staff, and faculty:

Alternative Publishing Formats

Here is some information and tips on getting your research to a broader, or to a specialized, audience

The Politics of Citation

"One of the feminist practices key to my teaching and research is a feminist practice of citation."

From The Digital Feminist Collective, this blog post emphasizes the power of citing.

"Acknowledging and establishing feminist genealogies is part of the work of producing more just forms of knowledge and intellectual practice."

Here's an exercise (docx) to help you in determining how inclusive you are when citing.

Additional Resources for Inclusive Citation Practices:

  • BIPOC Scientists Citation guide (Rockefeller Univ.).
  • Conducting Research through an Anti-Racism Lens (Univ. of Minnesota Libraries).
  • cleanBib (Code to probabilistically assign gender and race proportions of first/last authors pairs in bibliography entries).
  • Balanced Citer (Python script guesses the race and gender of the first and last authors for papers in your citation list and compares your list to expected distributions based on a model that accounts for paper characteristics).
  • Cite Black Women Collective; in particular, their 5 Guiding Principles:
    1. Read Black women's work;
    2. Integrate Black women into the CORE of your syllabus (in life & in the classroom);
    3. Acknowledge Black women's intellectual production;
    4. Make space for Black women to speak;
    5. Give Black women the space and time to breathe.
  • CiteASista.