Doing a literature review

Explains the literature review process and tips to help you along the way.

What is a literature reveiw?

According to the APA, a literature review is a: “Survey of previously published literature on a particular topic to define and clarify a particular problem; summarize previous investigations; identify relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the literature; and suggest the next step in solving the problem.”

Resources to help with planning literature reviews

Resources to help with writing literature reviews

Tips for searching

When searching a research database (including Google Scholar) it’s useful to know how to search effectively. Using an advance search and Boolean operators; AND, NOT, OR will help. 

  • AND for narrowing down the search, the more you add, the narrower the results. For example, tuberculosis AND sociology
  • OR is more. It is useful for alternative words with similar meanings. It can be helpful these terms within brackets. For example, (tuberculosis OR TB)
  • NOT to add if you didn’t want research that uses a specific word. You will not need to use NOT as often. For example, tuberculosis NOT animal, this will exclude all literature with the term “animal”.

Search strategy example; (unstable OR deteriorating OR acute) AND patient AND (elderly OR older OR aged)

“Phrase searching”, this is using quote marks. For example, searching “theory of mind” with the quotation will only show results of this exact phrase.

Truncation * is useful to find words with different endings. Commonly using the asterisk symbol, but this may change depending on the database. Going to the help page and searching truncation, will specific what symbol to use. For example, for child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood OR genetic* = genetic, genetics, genetically

Wildcard is for replacing a single character. For example, wom?n will retrieve woman or women

After identifying keywords and then searching a database you can use filters to limit your results to specific resource types and to publication date when necessary.

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