Support for NHS researchers

The Health Library Service is here to support researchers working for our NHS partners. Research may include many different aspects of healthcare practice - clinical research, clinical audits, quality improvement, innovation, new developments and individual projects. So, no matter the size of your project - big or small - we are here to support you.

Prepare yourself for completing your project by making sure that you can access the resources you'll need.

So get ready to make the most of what we have on offer:

  • Join the Health Library
  • Register for an NHS OpenAthens username to access online resources

Have you got a burning question that you want to answer? Do you want to investigate your practice and change if necessary?

You'll need to start by defining that question and really pinning down what you need to know. We can help you with that:

Use a range of tools to help you to define your question. Try these etutorials:

Make a start on your literature search plan, complete this etutorial:

For more help with quality improvement projects please contact Louisa Fulbrook (email:

So, you'll probably already have experience and knowledge of your topic area. But make sure you do your background reading, so that you have the evidence for your knowledge and you're confident of your understanding.

We can help here too. Our books and most ebooks are listed on our catalogue Library Search. You can run a search using your topic keywords to identify any books and ebooks. Then you can request books, borrow them or read them online (you did prepare didn't you?). We also have a range of NHS-only ebooks available.

If you have not completed any studying recently, you might want to refresh your skills before you get going. This will save you time in the long run and help your project to run more smoothly.

We can help you to refresh your information skills.

You might also want to investigate any training opportunities and support available within the research department of your Trust.

You might need to learn more about:

  • Copyright
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Statistics

Before you dive headfirst into running your project check what has already been published on your topic. You don't want to repeat work that has already been investigated.

We can help you here:

  • Request a literature search - as long as your research / project is not for a course assignment we can do the literature search for you. Our qualified librarians are experienced in using health-specialist databases and getting access to full-text content.
  • Complete your own literature search - work with one of our trainers or outreach librarians so that you can complete your own literature search. They'll show you how to develop your search plan, execute your search and evaluate your results.
  • Inter-Library Loan Service (ILL) - contact our ILL service if you are struggling to find the full-text of the articles you want to check. If an article is not available within our collections, our ILL team can try to locate it from another library.


Now is a good time to start recording your references. You'll need to keep a record of the resources you've used in your background reading and all the relvant articles that you have identified in your literature search.

You will need to consider and analyse the most appropriate methods, procedures and techniques that you can apply to help you answer your question. This will lead you to develop a strategy for carrying out your research.

  • Search Library Search for relevant texts to support the methodology for your project.
  • Understanding Health Data Access (UHDA) (from the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership) can help you prepare your requests for patient-related data access if you need it.

Almost all library services and resources are freely available to members.

However you may need some funding to carry out your project - for resources, equipment, staff time, external services etc. Although this is beyond the scope of what the library provides we can give you some pointers.

If you are applying for funding you'll need to demonstrate your knowledge of your topic - your background reading and literature search will provide valuable input into this.

When you are ready to run your project there are various elements that you will need develop, record and complete. You will need to keep track of everything that needs doing and possibly keep to a specific timeline.

Things to think about:

  • Develop a project plan
  • Consider if you will need additional staff - who are they and what skills will they need
  • Set up your funding and have a plan to monitor expenditure
  • How to communicate with your participants
  • Organise your files
  • Collect and store the data
  • Provide feedback reports - for example to a sponsor or funding body
  • Analyse your results
  • Develop your conclusions and recommendations
  • Write up your research or project

You'll find a wealth of books in Library Search that can help you with many of these elements, from managing a project, managing your time, how to write a report and more.

There are also a number of organisations that support researchers. You might find it useful to join these to benefit from peer support.

Once you have completed your research / project you'll want to share what you have learnt. If your project is a long project you may want to share milestones as you work your way through it. There are a number of things you could do.

Check our Authorship page for help and support on academic writing and writing for research.

Publishing your research in a journal will expose it to a much wider and more specific audience. This may be a requirement of your funding. If you are hoping to build a career as a researcher it will also be beneficial to raising your profile.

Here are some issues you should consider:


Orcid is the Open Researcher and Contributor ID. It is a permanent, personal digital identifier (an ORCID iD) that you own and control. You can connect your ID with your professional publications. This ensures that all your published work can be linked together. You can register for free via their website.


Gold or green open access routes are available. It may be a requirement of your funding to publish as open access. You can learn more about open access from Jisc. You can check whether the journal you want to publish with allows open access publising and in what format from the SHERPA / Romeo database.


Many institutions, such as Universities or research organisations, now maintain their own publicly available respositories. Academics and researchers are required to submit their papers, and sometimes data, into a repository so that other researches and members of the public can access it. This will expose your research to a wider audience. You may need to check whether this is a requirement of your institution or funding-body.

Impact factor

When you are selecting which journal to send your paper to you'll want a journal that is relevant to your topic area and that has a track record of being read by your target audience. Researchers often use the impact factor of a journal to represent this. The impact factor of a journal reflects the number of times recent journal articles are cited in other works. The higher the journal impactor factor, the more important that journal is considered to be. You can ask one of the librarians to check for the impact factor of a journal.

Think / Check / Submit

Another tool to consider when choosing a journal to submit to is the Think / Check / Submit tool. This is a checklist that will help you to decide whether the journal you want to submit to is a trusted publisher.


Finally, you have published your research - so what next? Is anyone going to read your research? You can use article-level metrics to see whether your article is being accessed and cited by others. This will give you an indication of the impact of your work. Many journals now also include social media activity in the metrics so you can tell if it is being shared and discussed. You can learn more about metrics from the PlumXMetrics website. Many publishers will include PlumXMetrics in their online platforms. You can find PlumX Metrics for free for research output with a DOI (digital object identifier) by using this URL: (paste the DOI after the “=” sign). Note that not all articles will have a DOI.