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Support for dissertations and research projects

A guide to resources and support for undertaking dissertations or research projects

Literature searching

Student taking notes.

Your dissertation or research project will almost certainly require a search for literature on your topic, whether to identify selected research, to undertake a literature review or inform a full systematic review. Literature searches require planning, careful thought about what it is you wish to find out and a robust strategy to ensure you find relevant material.

Planning your search

Time spent carefully planning your search can save valuable time later on and lead to more relevant results and a more robust search strategy. You should consider the following:

  • Analysing your topic and understanding your research question: Carry out a scoping search to help understand your topic and to help define your question more clearly.
  • Break your search into clearly defined concepts
    • What are the key concepts in your search?
    • What terms might be used to describe those concepts? Consider synonyms and alternative spellings.
    • If your question relates to health or clinical medicine, you might like to use PICO (Population, Intervention, Comparison and Outcomes) to analyse your question:
  • Combine your concept terms together using the correct operators, such as AND and OR.

See our Library Skills Essentials guide for support materials and guidance for planning your search, including understanding and defining your topic, and defining search terms.

Search techniques and developing a search strategy

Make sure you are confident about using essential search techniques,  including combining search terms, phrase searching and truncation. These will help you find relevant results on your topic. See our guide to search techniques:

When carrying out a literature search to inform a dissertation or extended piece of research, you will need to think carefully about your search strategy. Have a look at our tutorials and videos to help you develop your literature searching skills:

When you carry out a literature search you may need to search multiple resources (see Sources and Resources). Your search strategy will need to be adjusted depending on the resource you are using. For some resources, a simple search will be sufficient, whereas for more complex resources with more content, you may need to develop a sophisticated search strategy, ensuring you use the correct search techniques for that resource. See our guides to selected individual resources for further guidance.

Systematic reviews

We also provide support for developing advanced search strategies to ensure comprehensive literature retrieval, including searching for systematic reviews. See our guide to Searching for Systematic Reviews.

Further help

For further help, please contact us.
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See our library skills training sessions or contact your librarian.

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