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Literature Searches

The Library offers literature search assistance to support clinical practice and professional activities.

Information Specialists can conduct literature searches on behalf of our members and staff, or provide guidance to those undertaking searches themselves. See below for the types of searches we can offer support with.

Who can use the service?

  • Members and fellows of RCS England
  • Affiliate members of RCS England
  • Faculty of Dental Surgery: MFDS, FDSRCS, Specialty Member, Associate
  • RCS England staff

If your search is part of a defined activity for educational purposes (e.g. part of a requirement for a certificate or degree) then we will not be able to conduct the search on your behalf. Please see below for the support we can offer.

I want to conduct my own searches:

The Evidence Support Team would be happy to provide one to one training and advice on how to conduct your search. To book an appointment with our trained Information Specialists, please email

Alternatively, there are online training and resources available to help you make the most of searching Ovid MEDLINE and Embase on the Ovid Training Platform.

We also offer a search strategy peer review service for those who want to conduct their own searches. If you have designed a search strategy and would benefit from peer review before you compile the results, Information Specialists can use an evidence-based checklist to peer review your search strategies and ensure the most effective translation of the research question for your research needs. We can advise on: MeSH/Emtree thesaurus headings, keyword terminology, truncation, Boolean and proximity operators, spelling, syntax, and line numbers, and database limits and filters. We can offer tailored advice for Ovid Medline and Embase, as well as Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL).

Please email strategies for review to including details of the databases used and the aspects of the search you would like us to review.

See also the below training guides: 

RCS England Literature Search Service conduct your own searches using our databases

RCS England Literature Search Service Guide to study types

RCS England Literature Search Service Finding grey literature

I would like the Library to conduct a search on my behalf: 

Surgeons require literature for a number of reasons so we have tiered our service to provide the most appropriate support:

  1. Quick search: aims to provide you with the relevant content to answer a narrow question, or to provide ~5-10 citations to support posters, presentations etc. It can also be used to find the most up-to-date information (i.e. the most recent systematic reviews on your chosen subject). Information Specialists will judge the right resource for searching, sift results, and provide a quick answer within a maximum of one week.

  2. Narrative search: a search with a much wider scope but a non-standardised methodology. This is suitable for scoping if you want to conduct research, for answering more complex clinical queries, or for supporting developments in services, guidelines or protocols. Information Specialists will conduct searches on biomedical databases Ovid MEDLINE and Embase (and others as appropriate), sift results, and provide formatted results within two weeks. 

  3. Systematic search support: a high-level search of multiple relevant sources to identify all the evidence that meets the criteria specified to answer your research question. Information Specialists will conduct searches on biomedical databases Ovid MEDLINE and Embase (and others as appropriate), and provide formatted results within two weeks. Please note that for systematic searches, Information Specialists do not sift results (other than removing duplicates) so that requesters can see the full range of what has been retrieved.

  4. Qualitative or mixed methods search request: searches may describe an intervention, but the research question focuses on the perspective of the individuals experiencing it as part of a larger phenomenon. This type of search is recommended for topics such as medical education or health management and policy topics. Information Specialists will conduct searches on biomedical databases Ovid MEDLINE and Embase (and others as appropriate), and provide formatted results within two weeks. We also recommended RCS England staff use this form for any internal literature searches.

Fill in the relevant web form below to submit your request.

Alternatively fill in the equivalent PDF form and email to

RCS England Quick search request

RCS England Narrative search request

RCS England Systematic search support request

RCS England Qualitative or mixed methods search request

Information Specialists conduct searches using Ovid MEDLINE and Embase and other sources where appropriate. We will respond to your request within two business days to agree a deadline for your results.

Search request web forms:

Quick search request

Comprehensive search request

Search to support Systematic Review

Searches for RCS England Staff

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