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What is a literature review?
A literature review provides an overview of current research in a particular field. It is a way for you to give your reader a general understanding of the topic and to explain how your own research relates to the larger field of study. Your review should include a variety of viewpoints but needn't be overly long or repetitive.
Questions to ask
- What is already known about this topic?
- Who are the major researchers who have published work in this field?
- Do opinions about this topic differ? What are the major points of disagreement?
- Are there unexplored areas or gaps in understanding this topic?
Knowing when to stop
How do you know when you have found enough sources for a review?
- Are you seeing a lot of repetition of ideas in your research?
- Are the same authors/researchers being cited in different articles?
- Do you have a variety of viewpoints or approaches to your question?
Remember, you aren't trying to find ALL research that has been done on your topic. Instead, go for a broad overview of the major findings and differences of opinion.
Keep track of your sources
To avoid the frustration of finding a relevant article and not remembering how to get back to it, keep a reading log. Your log should include citation information plus a quick summary of the article to jog your memory.
You can do this in NoodleTools but you won't have the one-page overview that you can get from a spreadsheet. Click here for an example of a reading log, taken from Mrs. Rettberg's library studies. Customize your own log to include whatever information is most helpful.
Conducting your research
The library has many useful resources to assist your research, and there are many free resources on the internet. Here are some places to start.
Academic Search Premier (EBSCO)
- Why search here?
This is an excellent source for secondary source articles.
- What's included?
Over 2000 full-text journals and magazines that are not available on the open internet, 80% of which are peer-reviewed.
Use Advanced Search in this secondary source database to find journals and books in your particular area of study.
MAS Ultra (EBSCO)
Use Advanced Search to limit your results to academic journals.
- Why search here?
Use this database to find published scientific research.
- What’s included?
Full text of large number of review articles and original research.
Directory of Open Access Journals
A large collection of open access, peer reviewed journals. Use this with care, as on rare occasions some journals have shown an unprofessional approach to peer review.
Google Scholar will find relevant academic articles which may or may not be available for free. Before paying for an article, check the Menlo databases to see if the article is available there.
These are open access journals in the fields of biology and medicine.
PubMed is a large index of biomedical and health journals. FAQ pages explain how to navigate the site, use limiters, and restrict your results to free articles.
A directory of academic journal articles, conference proceedings and research reports.
Gray literature is academic information that is published in places other than academic journals. This information is produced by entities such as government agencies, think tanks, research facilities, or professional associations. There are far too many of these sites to index here, but an internet search of "gray literature" plus your topic may lead to useful results. For non-US research use "grey" instead of "gray."