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Steps To Efficient Literature Survey For Biomedical Research

A good biomedical research paper writing (review or research paper) requires an intensive literature search for information pertaining to the study, whether it involves primary cell culture or microbial studies. This literature survey takes into account rigorous searching and compiling of all previous studies and data on a particular topic. The literature survey helps further research in the domain and provides research background, context, discussions and other perspectives but the most important factor that a good literature survey helps with is asking and answering the right questions: “why carry out this hypothesis? Why do this research? Which biomedical research gaps can be filled with the research? and how can the research progress into translation?” That being said, this is also the most strenuous part of writing a biomedical research paper and people often get confused in the process. In this article, we help researchers in planning out their literature survey process in a simple manner with some easy steps.

Steps your Research Literature  

Searching from the vast ocean of resources is undoubtedly difficult but here are six amazing one-liner steps to ease that up in the right direction.

  • Know the research gaps in your domain and develop the right question.
  • Go through specific review papers on the selected research domain and list crucial keywords.
  • Make a list of relevant publication databases and utilize the list of keywords to find research papers.
  • Make an excel sheet to note down and keep a track of the papers you have gone through and the databases you have visited.
  • Compile all the literature survey results into a write-up or report.
  • If needed, revise the original research question.

What are some of the Literature Sources?

Literature compilation can be done from various biomedical sources in the form of published papers, books, journals etc. A great example of online database if PubMed with over 27 million biomedical citations. Besides that, individual publishers like Springer and Elsevier can also be accessed for selective searching.

How to make the Literature Survey more effective? 

A literature search is usually a time-consuming task as it establishes a proper foundation for the research molding and has to be precisely comprehensive. A good literature survey prevents you from repeating any previous research and helps you progress towards a good hypothesis. Let us see how to make this search more effective.

Developing a well-defined question

A biomedical researcher needs to keep three things in mind while developing a research question:

  1. Develop a focused question
  2. The question should not be too broad or too narrow in scope
  3. Questions should be simple for analysis and research

Choosing the right keywords

Right keywords and phrases are the backbone of a good literature survey and overlooking those leads to redundancy and waste of time. To obtain effective keywords, it is always suggested to read basic review papers of the research topic that a researcher has taken up. With the keywords, it is always suggested to build a concept map that might help in backtracking the survey.

Ignoring non-obvious sources is wrong

Aside from published research papers, there are other sources that are essential to gain a full-proof idea about the global proceeding regarding a topic. Pre-print materials, doctoral and post-doctoral theses, ongoing clinical trial surveys, online scientific forums, and conference proceedings also contribute a lot towards a good literature survey.

Understand the timeline

Once you dive in the literature search, it is very important to understand and analyze the timeline of the research data that you have found out so that you can understand the sequence of scientific progress and find how the previous gaps in the domain have been taken up for filling with advanced research. The questions of ‘when was the paper published?’ and ‘has the paper been peer-reviewed?’ are therefore important while doing a literature survey.

Re-analyze your research question

Once the survey and report is complete, take some time and go back to the start. Analyze whether your question (that led to this research study) is still relevant or valid based on your notes and keywords. If there is any change required to suit your survey, revise your research question accordingly and add a smile on your face to work on the hypothesis now!

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