Literature Searching

On this page you will find instructions for requesting a literature search via the UKHSA Knowledge and Library Services enquiries portal, and other information about the literature searching services offered by KLS. This service is available to eligible staff.

Contact us to discuss your search if you are at the early stages and would like help planning and defining your search. You can use UKHSA Discovery to search a wide selection of databases (including our library catalogue).

Please note that we are currently receiving a high volume of requests and appreciate your patience during this period. Some aspects of our service offer may be delayed.

This page is split into the following sections:


Request a literature search via the KLS enquiries portal 

You will need to be registered on the UKHSA Knowledge and Library Services enquiries portal in order to request a literature search (please note, this is not the same as your Koha Library account). It is easy to register, just follow the instructions on the enquiries portal.

Instructions for use

  1. Click on request a literature search, below. From this page you will need to login to make enquiries, including literature search requests. Follow the instructions on the front page of the enquiries portal to login or create a new account.
  2. Once you have logged in with your username and password, this will take you to our request system. 
  3. You will see a list of different types of enquiry (described as Queues) – choose the most appropriate one for your enquiry. For example, if you wish to request a search, choose from Literature Searches or Systematic Reviews
  4. Fill in the online form provided, add any attachments necessary (e.g. a protocol, a list of search terms or references etc.) and click Create ticket.

Click here to request a literature search

Note that anonymised literature search results of recently conducted searches are sometimes shared internally.


What is a literature search?

A literature search is a detailed, comprehensive and systematic search of the literature (published and unpublished) from a variety of quality sources about specific topics or conditions.
The search yields a set of results on the topic in question – usually a list of journal articles and reports, each containing a summary (known as an abstract).
Reading the results enables you to get an overview of what is known about the topic. This is often referred to as the ‘evidence base’ and is an integral part of the methodology for any UKHSA project.


What literature searches do UKHSA KLS offer?

Knowledge and Library Services offer four types of output for your literature search results:

  1. a bibliography 
  2. an annotated bibliography 
  3. an evidence briefing
  4. a systematic review search and advice
The option you choose depends on factors such as your timeline, what the results will be used for and the evidence available. The different types of output are explained below.

1. Bibliography

This is a simple list of the relevant results of a literature search, in chronological or author order. This type of search will usually take at least 1 week.  

2. Annotated bibliography

This is a list of the relevant results of a literature search that have been screened and categorised by the library staff (e.g. by publication type or theme), and/or contain the methods and results for each article or an associated commentary. This type of search will usually take at least 2 weeks.

3. Evidence Briefing

Evidence Briefings provide bullet point summaries of the best available evidence that has been identified and selected from research using systematic and transparent search methods. However, the findings are not quality assessed or critically appraised. 
It usually takes at least 3 weeks to produce an Evidence Briefing. They are also subject to certain eligibility criteria (e.g. whether the briefing is for a high priority issue). 


4. Systematic review

A systematic review search and advice – the provision of a complex literature search to help in the production of a systematic (or other type of evidence) review, and guidance in the methodology and process of conducting a review. It is essential that a librarian is involved as a member of the review team as early as possible. For more details, see our Systematic Reviews page. 

The time taken to deliver the search and advice will be dependent on the nature of the review and will be subject to discussion.


When will I get the search results?

This depends on:

  • the type of search you have requested (see above);
  • the demand for searches at the time of your request;
  • and the urgency of your request.

Depending on the above factors, it may sometimes be necessary to negotiate an alternative deadline to our standard service levels as specified under each type of search above, although we try our best to work to your requirements.

Once you have the results, you may wish to request an article.


Do you conduct surveys on the results of literature searches?

KLS collect examples of the ways that our literature searches have been used by UKHSA, OHID, NHSE and local authority public health staff; our aim is to determine the impact a KLS literature search might have on services, projects, policy, research, publications or population health.

A template is used by KLS and UKHSA staff to write up a case study. These are called Impact Stories.
If you have previously requested a literature search which has helped in the production of a publication or the implementation of a service/project, and would like to help KLS complete an Impact Story please contact Nicola Pearce-Smith, Senior Information Scientist.

For more information, please see our Impact Stories page.


Are there any limitations or restrictions with the literature searching service?

  1. We do not undertake searches for students or for educational purposes e.g. essays or assignments, but we have produced a guide to support people who are studying, and we can provide training if required.
  2. In circumstances where the deadline is deemed to be unattainable, or when KLS are experiencing very high demand for our literature searching service, we will contact you to negotiate a different date. However, we will try to avoid this where possible.

Last Updated on 27th November 2023 by Nicola Pearce-Smith

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