Developing a local literature searching protocol for library staff by Annabel Leinster

Back in 2009/2010 our then Clinical Librarian, Victoria Treadway, attended a series of Finding Information to Support Healthcare (FISH) workshops via the LIHNN Clinical Librarians Group. The workshops were so useful that we decided to facilitate similar literature searching workshops at Wirral tailored to our own local needs. The workshops encouraged us to reflect on the way we approached literature searching as a team and highlighted that:

  • We each had had different training (or no training at all!) and so we all searched in different ways. There was a huge variation in the way that we each prepared for a search and conducted it, even though we strived to deliver a consistent service.
  • We all made assumptions about the searching process. Many of our assumptions were challenged during the group discussions, for example, assuming that a thesaurus search would retrieve all articles, or assuming that we all always would explode a thesaurus search.
  • We had never sat down and discussed the basics of searching! We needed further discussion about the best ways to search to ensure that we were being consistent with searching and presenting results as a team.

Hence after a couple of drafts and a bit of tweaking the WUTH Literature Search Protocol was created…

The protocol is a working document that needs to be reviewed regularly to ensure validity. Its main focus is to enable the searcher to prepare (what does the requestor expect/want), search (searching the right sources for the type of question asked), document and present the results in a clear and useful way.

It is important to remember that it is virtually impossible to create a “one size fits all” protocol that can be applied to every information request. However, our document can be used as a guideline or an aide memoire, which helps us to ensure that our users are receiving a consistent and high quality service. We find it useful, and we hope that you will too!

The WUTH Literature Searching Protocol is accessible via the LIHNN website @

Annabel Leinster
Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH)

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2 Responses to Developing a local literature searching protocol for library staff by Annabel Leinster

  1. lucyanderson says:

    Do the FISH workshops still happen regionally?

  2. traceyp says:

    Thanks for sharing Annabel. Lucy, the FISH workshops haven’t run for ages all the stuff is still available on thw wiki if anyone wants to do this again as part of the Clinical Librarians Group. I’m happy to advise how we went about it …

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