Information Fluency

Literature Searching vs Literature Reviews

Literature searching and literature reviews are often used interchangeably but are two different steps in the research process guided by EBM.

Literature search is searching the literature for some studies. A search strategy is developed for one or more biomedical databases to search the literature, and gather relevant studies.

Literature review is reviewing the studies which have been identified through a literature search. As part of the literature review, the retrieved articles are analyzed and critically appraised. 

The following steps will help guide you through the process of literature searching in PubMed. 

Literature Searching Using PubMed

PubMed is a free resource that supports the search and retrieval of biomedical and life sciences literature. The PubMed database comprises of more than 33 million citations and abstracts of biomedical literature, and facilitates searching across several National Library of Medicine (NLM) sources including MEDLINE (NLM's journal citation database) and PubMed Central (archive of full-text journal articles). It does not include full-text journal articles; however, links to the full-text may be available through a link to a publisher's website or PubMed Central. 

*MEDLINEPlus features health information resources for patients and families. 

Steps to Literature Searching in PubMed

  1. Formulate a research question
  2. Identify primary concepts & gather synonyms
  3. Locate Medical Subject Headings MeSH (database-specific indexing terms)
  4. Combine search terms using Boolean operators
  5. Search in PubMed
  6. Apply search limits or filters

Asking a Research Question