A literature review is a survey of current (you determine time frame) literature relating to a particular issue, problem, theory, etc. The review involves a comprehensive search of all of the known/findable scholarly literature related to the issue or topic. The written review provides a summary of this literature and can be a publication in its own right, or may be part of a larger academic research publication.
- Identify the problem and formulate the research question
- Brainstorm search terms and word combinations for each concept in your research question.
- Choose two databases to start with a preliminary search (suggestion: one general article database and one subject-specific database). Try a word combination for each of your concepts in each database in order to:
- find out if the same or similar research has already been published
- broaden or refine the scope of the problem
- bring to light new issues or questions related to the topic
- provide models or frameworks that can inform your research
- identify experts or scholars in the field
- provide background or context for your research
Refine the topic, and your search term word combination strategy
Conduct a comprehensive review of the literature using multiple databases, library catalog and other appropriate resources.
- Glance at the title; if you think the publication may be relevant look at the abstract.
- If the abstract indicates that the article will be important, go to the full text and skim the introduction, methods and results. (If you find a structured abstract this process will be much easier.)
- Save citations/full text for all potentially important literature.