Information Skills

Searching for and appraising information and evidence to support your practice can feel like an overwhelming task. You may have encountered literature searching and critical appraisal during your studies, or it may all be new to you - either way most healthcare professionals feel like they need support to use these skills during their career.

Your library service is here to support you with all of your information needs, and we can provide training and guidance to help you to become more confident in finding and using evidence from a range of sources.

As well as the group courses and 1-1 training sessions we offer, we have collated this range of guides, videos and resources to help you improve your searching and appraisal skills. Please contact us if you need any further advice and support. 

Literature Searching

Planning and structuring your search:

  • How to Search the Literature Effectively - eLfH Course: This free course from HEE, delivered through the eLearning for Healthcare Hub, is designed to help the healthcare workforce (clinical and non-clinical) build confidence to search published literature for articles and evidence relevant to their work, study and research. It is separated into 7 modules, so it  can be dipped into as needed, or you can complete all the modules to gain a certificate. Suitable for novice/intermediate searchers.
  • Creating a seach strategy - guide (this link will download a Word document): This guide is used in our Searching Skills Course, and offers an overview of key searching skills and techniques, as well guidance on choosing a suitable database for your search.Suitable for intermediate searchers
  • The Literature Search Process: Guidance for NHS Researchers (this link will open a PDF doucment): This guide has not been updated since 2013 so the list of information resources is no longer current, however the guidance around planning and structuring a search strategy is very detailed. Suitable for intermediate/advanced searchers

    How to use different databases/resources

    How to use healthcare databases:


    Critical Appraisal

    Critical appraisal is an essential part of evidence-based healthcare. Critical appraisal is important so that the good studies can be found amongst the many. These can then be used to confirm or change treatments and advice given to patients.

    Critical appraisal generally seeks to answer two broad questions.

    • Is this study likely to be accurate (validity)?
    • Can we use its findings (relevance)?

    Online tools and courses to support Critical Appraisal

    • Critically Appraising the Evidence Base: A new course in 2023, this series of online Critical Appraisal modules has been created specifically for NHS colleagues. There are 8 sections that should take around 30 minutes each to complete. Each session includes reference links to further resources should learners choose to check their understanding throughout the programme. 
    • Understanding health research: a simple tool to guide you through a series of questions to help you to review and interpret a published health research paper.
    • Critical Appraisal Techniques for Healthcare LiteratureThis 3 week FutureLearn course (free to join whilst the course is running) will help you to learn how to critically appraise published medical research literature to keep up with research developments in your field.
    • Finding & Appraising the EvidenceThese 6 modules by Amanda Burls and Anne Brice take you through the process of how to find the evidence and then how to assess the validity and reliability of the published research in order to provide effective and efficient healthcare. 
    • Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP): CASP offers critical appraisal skills training, workshops and tools. These help you read and check health research for trustworthiness, results & relevance. There are downloadable checklists for a range of different study types. 
    • Open University: Medical Statistics: This free course with 4 sections is concerned with some of the statistical methods used in epidemiology and more widely in medical statistics.
    • Critically Appraising for Antiracism Racial bias in research impacts a study’s relevancy, validity and reliability, though presently this aspect is not addressed in critical appraisal tools, and consequently appraisers may often not take racial bias into account when assessing a paper’s quality. In response to this, a supplementary tool has been developed, to support appraisers in explicitly addressing racial bias.

    Websites to support Critical Appraisal

    Books to support Critical Appraisal


    • Critical Appraisal for FCEM, 2015: Clearly written jargon free book aimed at those seeking Fellowship of the College of Emergency Medicine but very useful of learning and improving critical appraisal skills. 
    • The Doctor’s Guide to Critical Appraisal, 2015: A comprehensive guide to understanding strengths and weaknesses of research design and interpreting results. 
    • How to Read a Paper, 2019: How to Read a Paper demystifies evidence-based medicine and explains how to critically appraise published research and also put the findings into practice 
    • Qualitative Research in Nursing and Healthcare, 2016: This book provides a good explanation of qualitative research enabling the reader to build critical appraisal skills for this area of research. 
    • Medical Statistics at a Glance, 2019: A concise and accessible introduction to this complex subject. It provides clear instruction on how to apply commonly used statistical procedures in an easy-to-read, comprehensive and relevant volume. 


    There are a number of different styles for citing bibliographic references in academic writing. The style used will be dictated by the organisation, institution or purpose for which the material is being written. These are some signposts to diifferent sources of information on referencing.If you have any queries or need support with referencing then please contact us.

    Academic Institutions: In academic institutions there may be one style used by the whole organisation, or individual faculties, schools or departments may enforce their own preferred style.  The list below gives links to the webpages for each of the universities in the Yorkshire and Humber region where this information may be found.

    Journals: Articles for publication should use the referencing style specified by the journal to which the article is to be submitted. Details of which style to use and any variants to the standard version of the style will usually be given in the “Instructions for Authors” section of the journal’s own website or included in the editorial information section of the print version.

    If the same article is to be submitted to different journals, then the referencing style should be changed to meet each specific journal’s requirements.

    Reference Management

    Reference management software is extremely helpful for projects involving literature reviews, helping you to collect, organise, and cite material in your work, share your refewrences with others, and keep track of the literature that you have found and read.

    We do not currently provide specific support for any reference management software. However, if you would like to find out more about the different options and how they work, this guide from the University of York is clear and comprehensive.

    Free reference management software:

    • Zotero (free, charges to upgrade file storage)
    • Mendeley (free, charges to upgrade file storage)

    Refworks accounts may be available for NHS researchers. Contact us to discuss this option.

    Systematic Reviews


    An OpenAthens account gives all NHS staff and learners access to a wide range of online resources. 

    Need more help with literature searching or critical appraisal?

    Book onto one of our training courses, or arrange a one to one appointment with our librarians.