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Advanced Literature Search Guide for Nursing and Health Sciences: STEP 1: Background search

Step 1: Background searching

This page will explain what background searching is and how to do it. 

Background searching

What is background searching? 

Background searching is a preliminary search for information around your topic before you start your structured, systematic literature search. It can help you to gain an understanding of the topic, look at what literature is available on it and it can help you to think about what keywords you might use in your main search. 

Where to do a background search

Unlike your main literature search, you don't necessarily need to use a database for your background search. For example, you could use Summon, Google or Google Scholar as well. Remember, you should use Summon and Google only for preliminary searching to overview your topic before you start your in-depth literature search.

It is not good practice to start by choosing your articles from an initial Google or Summon search as it may then prove very difficult and time consuming to find the same articles via the advanced database search which you will be required to do.

It is recommended that you only use Summon or Google for preliminary searching to help you overview your topic prior to starting a more structured search.

Other Useful Sources

The following are quality sources for finding standards, guidelines, systematic reviews and other high quality information.

NICE Evidence &  TRIP - video search guide

All images included in this guide are available from Upsplash through Creative Commons licensing CC-BY-2.0