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Psychology and Counselling: Literature Reviews

What is a literature review?

So you have been asked to complete a literature review, but what is a literature review? A literature review is a piece of research which aims to address a specific research question. It is a comprehensive summary and analysis of existing literature. The literature itself should be the main topic of discussion in your review. You want the results and themes to speak for themselves to avoid any bias.

Choosing a topic

The first step is to decide on a topic, here are some elements to consider when deciding upon a topic;

  • Choose a topic which you are interested in, you will be looking at a lot of research surrounding that area so you want to ensure it is something that interests you. 
  • Draw on your own experiences, think about your placement or your workplace.
  • Think about why the topic is worth investigating.  

Once you have decided on a topic, it is a good practice to carry out an initial scoping search.

This requires you to do a quick search using LibrarySearch or Google Scholar to ensure that there is research on your topic. This is a preliminary step to your search to check what literature is available before deciding on your question. 

 

Carrying out your search

Once you have thought about your keywords and alternative keywords, it is time to think about how to combine them to form your search strategy. Boolean operators instruct the database how your terms should interact with one another. 

Boolean Operators

  • OR can be used to combine your keywords and alternative terms. For example "Social Media OR Twitter". When using OR we are informing the database to bring articles continuing either of those terms as they are both relevant so we don't mind which appears in our article. 
  • AND can be used to combine two or more concepts. For example "Social Media AND Anxiety". When using AND we are informing the database that we need both of the terms in our article in order for it to be relevant.
  • Truncation can be used when there are multiple possible word endings. For example Nurs* will find Nurse, Nurses and Nursing. 
  • Double quotation marks can be used to allow for phrase searching. This means that if you have two or more words that belong together as a phrase the database will search for that exact phrase rather than words separately.  For example "Social Media"

Don't forget the more ORs you use the broader your search becomes, the more ANDs you use the narrower your search becomes. 

One of the databases you will be using is EBSCOHost Research Databases. This is a platform which searches through multiple databases so allows for a comprehensive search. The short video below covers how to access and use EBSCO. 

Developing your search strategy

The research question framework elements can also be used as keywords.

Here are some ideas on what makes a good keyword:

  • Think about who the population/ sample group. Are you looking for a particular age group, ethnicity, cultural background, gender, health issue etc.
  • What is the intervention/issue you want to know more about? This could be a particular type of medication, education, therapeutic technique etc. 
  • Do you have a particular context in mind? This could relate to a community setting, hospital, ward etc. 

It is important to remember that databases will only ever search for the exact term you put in, so don't panic if you are not getting the results you hoped for. Think about alternative words that could be used for each keyword to build upon your search. 

Keywords - spellings, acronyms, abbreviations, synonyms, specialist language

Build your search by thinking about about synonyms, specialist language, spellings, acronyms, abbreviations for each keyword that you have.

Saving and documenting your search

EBSCOHost allows you to save your search and return to it at a later date. In order to save your search you will first need to create an EBSCO account. 

A reference management software will save you a lot of time especially when you are looking at lots of different articles. 

We provide support for EndNote and Mendeley. The video below covers how to install and use Mendeley. 

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