Section 2.4: Searching for research findings and KT literature

K. Ann McKibbon and Cynthia Lokker
Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

People involved in KT research and practice need to identify information from several categories:

  • Evidence and evidence summaries (e.g., systematic reviews, clinical practice guidelines, health technology assessments [HTAs])
  • Evidence to develop knowledge syntheses that form the basis of guidelines
  • Successful KT interventions
  • Information describing the theoretical bases (e.g. KT models or frameworks) important for designing and evaluating KT


The purpose of this chapter is to provide:

  • A description of where information can be found, and
  • Vocabulary to use when searching for resources.

Getting started: how do we find knowledge syntheses?

Systematic reviews (including meta-analyses)

Clinical practice guidelines

What should we do next: how do we search large databases?

  • Examples are Medline (for medicine) or CINAHL (for nursing and allied health professionals)
  • Additional sources described in Bzdel Resource Guide*
  • Librarians can help with searching or search training
  • Online tutorials (e.g., PubMed)
  • Searching for KT interventions, theories or frameworks is difficult
  • Filters such as PubMed Clinical Queries (RCTs or qualitative studies and health services research)
  • KT Clearinghouse web site for other filters

*Bzdel, Winther and Graham (2004)

Should we search the Internet?

What are some existing collections of KT material?

How do we search the grey literature?

How can we search for literature about KT?

  • Difficult as KT is a new field that interrelates with several existing disciplines
  • Evolving and varied vocabulary with multiple terms for the same concept
  • Researchers: knowledge translation (CA), research utilization, implementation or diffusion (US, UK)
  • Business uses terms related to marketing, advertising and change management
  • Engineers talk about technology transfer
  • Clinicians deal with adoption of new techniques and evidence-based practice
  • Policy makers speak of evidence-informed decisions

Future Research

  • Research is required for producing search filters for Medline and CINAHL
  • Need more data on proven retrieval methods for Internet-based resources
  • Need consensus on definitions and mapping of terms across disciplines
  • Develop search engines that can search effectively across many KT resources and sites


  • Searching for existing knowledge is a major foundation of KT Producing and summarizing existing evidence from multiple sources to address knowledge or action gaps is an important first step
  • KT researchers then need to learn about:
    • methods and tools used in previous KT projects
    • how best to build new programs
    • theoretical constructs of KT
  • Searching for evidence is difficult because of vocabulary and its multidisciplinary nature
  • Contact librarians and others with experience in searching to help
Date modified: