BCHM 5784: Science Literature Reviews

Course Guide for BCHM 5784: Advanced Applications in Molecular Life Sciences

Plan Your Literature Review Project

  • Get set up
  • Develop a Search Plan 
  • Conduct background research
  • Develop one or more Research Questions
  • Identify Outcomes or Information you need to answer your questions
  • Develop Search Strategies to get database results to answer your question
  • Identify at least 3 databases / search engines to use
    • Brainstorm keywords and phrases based on major ideas in your topic and research questions, including synonyms
    • Try out initial searches in a research literature database
    • Adjust your search strategy/ies to get results relevant to your topic
      • Consider comprehensiveness of results
    • New Publication Alerts: Identify how to set alerts for new publications with your search terms
  • Search all 3 databases or more
  • Document your searches: (1) date searched, (2) database/search engine used, (3) keywords or prhases (4) index terms or headings, (5) limits/filters (6) set an alert (7) your notes on the search results
  • Save your search results in a citation manager
  • Update your citation manager when your alerts send new results
  • Select relevant items to include in your review
  • Make a plan for notes - as you read, identify:
    • Quality of each source (Recommendations for critically appraising research)
    • Key information for your research question
    • Themes
    • Theories
    • Methodologies / Protocols
    • Outcome measures
    • 'Future Research needed'
    • Gaps that you notice
    • Questions you have about the papers you read
  • Review search results and write notes on outcomes, other key information
  • Repeat the above as needed
  • Get assistance outlining, writing, or reviewing your draft literature review


Evidence Synthesis Services & Workshops

Evidence Synthesis services and workshops from the Library support researchers in conducting comprehensive, systematic reviews, meta-analyses, scoping reviews, and other evidence synthesis projects. Find out more via the guide. Workshops listings and past recordings are also available.

Article - Research Methods for Science Literature Reviews

Read this short (1 and 1/2 page) article, "Research Methods for Comprehensive Science Literature Reviews"


1. How do the methods suggested compare with your usual research practices? How will you consider changing your research routine after reading this article?

2. Look at the handouts linked at the end of the article - will any of these be useful to you?

3. This article is from 2009 - do you think it needs updating on any points?

Article - Open Data Science Tools and Reproducibility

Read through this article, "Our Path to Better Science in Less Time Using Open Data Science Tools"


1. What project management tools do you use now? What do your peers and faculty mentors use?

2. Are there things you might do differently in the future to increase your ease of documentation and the potential reproducibility of your research as you report it in publications?

Audio - Peer Review and Reliability

 Case Study:  Who's Afraid of Peer Review?

Listen to the following news story:


(You can also read the full story, published in Science, here:  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6154/60.full)


1.  What does this story mean to you?

2.  When you're doing research, how can you tell which articles (and journals) are trustworthy?

3.  Compare Open Journal of Preventive Medicine with PLOS Medicine.  Which journal seems more trustworthy?  Why?  

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