This article describes two distinct searching strategies for use when conducting literature searches. The use of both qualitative and quantitative approaches to searching contends with the advantages and disadvantages of using electronic reference databases, and provides the searcher with conceptual tools to facilitate the decision-making processes during the search. Qualitative and quantitative searching strategies have different advantages and disadvantages. Qualitative searching strategies are slow, labour intensive and useful when the topic being searched is not well conceptualized. The approach immerses the searcher in the complexity of what has been previously written. Quantitative searching strategies are relatively quick, cover a vast range of literature often producing a large amount of data. However, complexity is lost. It is the ideal method when a topic is already well conceptualized. Both approaches are systematic. The two approaches are illustrated by my experience of writing a literature review about a topic in social work that is not well conceptualized in the literature.
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