Effective Literature Searching (tutor-supported online learning course)
Duration 5 days
Team Central Short Courses

This course is delivered by the Libraries, Research and Learning Resources (LRLR)

Target audience

Early stage postgraduate research students e.g. PhD or equivalent, MRes* [especially those at a distance and/or part-time]

*Taught masters students should contact their school or department to see what information skills sessions are being delivered as part of the degree programme.



To study this course you must have access to the internet.

Please note: course topics and discussions will be paced and follow-on from one another. If you can't log in and post regularly in the discussion forums, please don't book onto the course as it is unfair to other participants.


Timeframe: 1 week (5 working days)

Your time input: Approximately 1 hour per working day at a time of your choosing. If you register for this course you must log in regularly and complete the course tasks.

There will be a number of learning exercises delivered through several discussion forums. Your contributions to the discussion forums are your means of 'assessment' and you should expect to post messages and respond to the posts of others. Guidance will be provided by the course tutor.

You will get access to the course a couple of days before the start date and you are encouraged to log in and post a message to the 'welcome and socialisation forum' before the course commences.

Although the course will officially 'end' after 1 week you will be able to continue to access it for a short period afterwards.


The course runs over one working week. This gives you time to complete the tasks required at a time each day that suits you. You will learn by reflecting on your own experience; sharing ideas through discussion forums; undertaking 'real' examples of literature searches; and, receiving feedback from the course tutors.

By working through these materials and sharing your ideas with other researchers, you will think about what will work best for you and your research project. It is important that you are prepared to share your responses to the tasks with the rest of the group in an online discussion forum.

This course is now tutor-supported 24/7 with tutors based in the UK (University of Nottingham), America (University of Washington) and China (University of Nottingham).  Course participants will be registered from all three locations, facilitating international networking and creating opportunities for potential new collaborations.


This course will help you to devise effective literature searching techniques and to increase your confidence in the search results you retrieve.  By sharing your experiences with one another, this online course provides the space and opportunity to reflect on what you do already and to see how various techniques and tools can be employed to help you find the most relevant literature in your field.  It is intended as a precursor to Introduction to the Literature Review Process, also a tutor-supported online learning course.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you will have:

  • reflected on your own approach to literature searching in terms of relevance of results and quantity of material retrieved;
  • undertaken guided searches across multiple databases to compare results;
  • applied new search strategies to your own research question;
  • explored saved searches, citation searches and alerts services; and
  • started to think about how to manage your references.

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