Literature search

A comprehensive search of the literature on a particular subject is fundamental to commencing a study. The first issue is to determine if a particular study has already been done or whether it has a different emphasis. A crosscheck with the RACGP or other relevant institute's databank is also worthwhile.

An appropriate starting point is a search such as Medlars or Medline search, which can be conducted by your medical library. It is important to carefully choose the correct key words in order to focus and economise the search. It may also be worthwhile reviewing the indexes of Family Medicine Literature Index (FAMLI) published by the College of Family Physicians of Canada or the British Journal of General Practice.

The review will provide a stimulus for more detailed knowledge and lateral thinking on the subject. Should a research project be pursued, it is essential to undertake a critical review of the literature rather than just summarising conclusions of previous studies and quoting the author's conclusions or quotations.

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