Translational biology, medicine and health (TBMH): Science Literature Reviews

For the Translational Biology Medicine and Health program

Your Librarians

Erin M. Smith, Health Sciences Research Librarian at VT University Libraries | 


Rita McCandless, Head Librarian, VTCSOM Library 


Plan Your Literature Review Project

  • Get set up
  • Conduct background research 
  • Develop one or more Research Questions
  • Identify Outcomes or Information you need to answer your questions
    • (see categories to consider in the 'notes categories' below)
  • Methodology / Approach: Plan and write a paragraph summarizing your search and source selection method
  • 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
  • Make a plan for notes - as you read, identify:
    • Themes
    • Theories
    • Methodologies / Protocols
    • Outcome measures
    • 'Future Research needed'
    • Gaps that you notice
    • Questions you have about the papers you read
  • Read your selected sources - write notes on outcomes, other key information
  • Past & Current Research Connections: Check your selected sources' cited references, as well as who cited the sources you're using
  • Repeat the above as needed
  • Get assistance outlining, writing, or reviewing your draft literature review