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Your assignment is due in tomorrow...

and you've only looked at the question now. Help!

In assignments you may be tasked to find, discuss or make reference to 'the literature'. Books, book chapters, articles (also referred to as papers) in journals, and reports are collectively know as 'the literature', further defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as:

4.(A body of) non-fictional books and writings published on a particular subject.
Source: literature, n. OED Online


  • Yes you could start with Google but put your critical 'hat' on and select carefully from what you find. Evaluate any websites you use. See Evaluating & appraising.

Work with what you already have: Reading lists

  • Look at the reading list you were given for your course. Identify one or two readings that seem particularly relevant to your topic and use them. Be guided by your assignment instructions as to if and how many course readings can be used.

  • If you have chosen to use an item eg an article from the course readings, there are 2 ways to use this item to find additional potentially relevant information:
    • Look at its reference list and follow up any items that seem relevant to you to help answer the assignment question. See How to find the full text of articles.
    • Has the item been cited since it was published ie is it in the reference list of more recent articles? Google Scholar and/or the Scopus database are useful places to do this (ie type in the article title). See how to do this at Pearl growing. Google Scholar and Scopus also have useful 'Related articles' links for each record.

Concise overviews

  • Use the BMJ Best Practice, DynaMed or ClinicalKey (especially the Clinical Overviews module) databases if you want an overview of a condition or symptom.

  • Lippincott Advisor, written by nurses for nurses, has evidence-based entries covering diseases, diagnostic tests, treatments, signs and symptoms, nursing care plans and more.

  • If your topic is a population/public health one have a look at Oxford Bibliographies. Information on topics includes definitions, critiques, frameworks and key literature. Topics include cultural safety, active aging, community health interventions, health promotion foundations, resilient health systems, climate change and more.

ScienceDirect topic pages

ScienceDirect topic pages are a useful resource for a quick way into 'concept definitions and subject overviews for researchers who want to expand their knowledge about scholarly and technical terms. Each synopsis provides a series of short, authoritative, excerpts from highly relevant book chapters written by subject matter experts in the field. These topic summaries are derived from Elsevier encyclopedias, reference works and books.'

ScienceDirect topic pages

Prepared to do more: (Click the + to find out how)



Stop and think

Is the information you need to answer your assignment question more likely to be in a book, a report eg something published by the Ministry of Health, a journal article/paper, a website, a point-of-care resource, a drug resource or a combination of books and articles? This will help you decide where to search first.

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