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How do I Write a Literature Review?: Step #2: Finding Information

So, you have to write a literature review. Well, this is the best place to start!


Deep, scholarly, academic research takes time, and when it's correctly done, the research practically writes the review for you. Outlined below are some research methods to help you focus on how to perform scholarly research and how to get the most out of the information you learn.

Identifying Key Terms

Up to this point you have identified your topic and scope of the review. Next, begin identifying resources to use in the review.

Take a piece of paper and jott down any keywords that describe your topic. Use a thesaurus or reference tool (like the library's Credo Reference Database) to help generate the list, since both types of sources provide general information. These words act as great search terms when you begin researching in the library's databases. Having the correct keywords can open up your search results and return may helpful articles and sources. With the wrong keywords or non-descriptive ones, your searching will return shallow results and take longer to perform.

Search Methods

If you want to discover the best search results, try the following methods described below.

  • " " Quotation marks: Placing a search phrase in quotation marks allows you to search for that phrase rather than each individual word. The database/search engine will return hits that only include all the words within the quotation marks and in that specific order.

Give it a try! Go to your favorite database and perform the following two searches:

Search terms: biographies on african americans  (without quotation marks)
                        "biographies on african americans" (with quotation marks)
Notice the difference in results. Without quotation marks return many more results than with them.

    • AND, OR, and NOT: Use these words to connect search terms and search phrases. Stringing your search terms together with different connectors will result in better search results.

Research Strategies 
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  • Search by Fields: When searching in databases, make sure to utilize the search fields. Often times you will notice a drop down box next to the search box. Here you can select specific fields to search in. If nothing is selected, database will search every field and return any resources that has your search term included in it. You can imagine how many resources are listed. Here are some of the most helpful fields to search it:

Abstract: Often author generated, these brief summaries provide the researcher with the article" />

Subject: This is a great place to use those key terms you wrote down. Many databases feature an internal thesaurus. It acts like a book index. Like the abstract, subject terms are often supplied by the author. If the author lists one of your search terms as a subject term, it is very likely that their article will be of use to you in your research.

Title: If your search terms appear in the title, it is likely the article will be useful.

Defined: Types of Resources

Below is a brief list of different types of resouces. Clicking on the name will take you to an entry in Credo Reference Online defining the term and describing what type of information you will find located within them-

Rapid ILL

Have you found a journal article that library does NOT have full-text access to? Don't worry! We can get it for you within 48 hrs. and have it delivered straight to your email. This service is called Rapid ILL. To use it, access the link below. Research just got easier!

Remember - when requesting an article, please make sure all the information boxes are filled in. The ISSN is most important! It is the mechanism that sends the request to a library who has the article.

Refworks with Login link and How to use it

Import citations from research databases

  • Organize your citations in folders
  • Search within them
  • Create citations from scratch
  • Compile bibliography/works cited
  • Share your citations with other RefWorks users