How to do a good literature search

For your project, you will be doing a literature search based on a question that you have. This is a clinically-focused, self-directed learning exercise in which you first develop your own learning objective, then acquire evidence to answer your question, and finally present it to the class. We’ll do this on the last day of the rotation.

Basically, you’ll:

  • Start with a patient with whom you had a question, perhaps “Could I have used the d-dimer in ruling out PE on my patient?”
  • Then formulate a question: try to use the PICO format, “In young males with low probability Wells Scores, how good is the d-dimer in ruling out PE?”
  • Acquire the evidence: use appropriate resources to search for an answer. You may find an article in PubMed or the Cochrane Database. Don’t go to Up-To-Date or Wikipedia.
  • Appraise the evidence: how valid (close to the truth) is this answer and how applicable (useful in clinical practice)
  • Apply the evidence: Tell me how you would manage the patient differently now that you know what you know.

Using MeSH terms

Using filters

Your presentation should be five minutes long. Seriously. I’m going to time it. No longer. Your write-up should fit on one page. I mean it, man. Take a minute or two to summarize your case. List out your questions and why you had them. Then go through the evidence you found. And finally tell us how you would (or wouldn’t) have done things differently with this new information. Here’s a worksheet you may or may not find helpful: EBEM Presentation.

How to do a good literature search