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Literature Review

How to Start

You usually start your literature review with a literature search. That means, use tools to look through what's been written and find the information on your topic.

How to do a literature search?

  1. Developing a search strategy
    • Defining the topic - In order to begin your literature review you must first define your research question.  What is the purpose?  What does it mean?  What are the key words?  Are there other words which could be used, such as synonyms, variations in spelling?  What do you already know about the topic?  What is the scope?  Do you need everything ever written in English on this topic, or just the last ten years?
    • Before beginning a search for information, it is important to develop a search strategy that will most effectively locate useful, relevant information.  This will often involve breaking down an essay or research question into:
      1. Compiling a list of keywords or key phrases:  Analyzing the topic of an essay question or research topic usually involves making a list of keywords or phrases.  You will need to include all the key concepts or ideas contained  within the essay or research question.  It might be useful to include alternative ways of phrasing and expressing concepts and ideas.  Think about both general terms and very specific terms for broadening and narrowing your search. The keyword or phrase is the basic unit of any search.  You may find it helpful to consult subject dictionaries and encyclopedias, or a textbook glossary for the common terminology of the subject area.  The use of an index and/or thesaurus is also advisable to establish the useful terms.
      2. Entering your search into appropriate search tools. There are hundreds of research tools at the Bluford Library, and a librarian can suggest a list of ones to try for your topic. Then,
      3. Evaluating your results to determine whether you need to employ various strategies to broaden, narrow or otherwise modify your research. 
  2. Identifying Resources - Information is available in a number of formats.  It is important for you to understand the significance of various formats so that you know what will best suit your information requirements. When you know what types of resources you are interested in you can revisit the search tools or find more. What type of resources are most appropriate for your needs?
    • Books
    • Reference Materials
    • Journal Articles
    • Conference Papers
    • Dissertations
    • Technical Reports
    • Patents
    • Internet