Help Guides » Literature Searching

Literature Searching


“the literature”: all the scholarly writing about a topic

literature search (definition): a well thought out and organized search for all of the books, articles, dissertations, and other authoritative sources published on a topic.

Literature review (definition): synthesizing sources from the literature search, usually in writing.

▶️Watch this video for an introduction

Types of Reviews

  • Narrative: an overview of the current state of the literature. Limited by a number of sources. (ex. 5-10 articles)
  • Systematic: Comprehensive overview of all published and unpublished research on the topic, limited by time frame (ex. 10 years).
    • Meta-analysis: Uses statistical analysis to combine the data from different studies
    • Meta-synthesis: Uses non-statistical methods to compare research studies by theme or theory

Source: U of Toledo Guide

Goals of a literature Review

  • Give an overview of the current state of the literature
  • Find a gap in the literature, or address a business or professional issue
  • Provide a synthesis of the issues, trends, and concepts surrounding your research topic or research project
  • Demonstrate your ability to search for, find, select, and analyze credible sources

Foundational Literature

  • Books or articles that developed or theorized about the topic
  • Lo older sources or authors frequently cited in the introduction of current research articles
  • For more info: Theoretical & Conceptual Frameworks Guide

Research & Reviews

Search Techniques

  • Searching for Sources covers basic search techniques with keywords
  • Advanced Searching covers more advanced techniques like citation chaining

Save Sources & Searches

Our Staying Organized With Research Guide covers options for saving and organizing searches and sources.

Comparing your Sources

Before you begin writing, it’s helpful to summarize the differences between sources into a table. Here are some templates you can use for this step.

Source Comparison Chart Worksheet (DOC)
Source Comparison Chart Workbook (EXCEL)
Plan For Your Sources Worksheet (DOC)
Plan for Sources Workbook (EXCEL)

Guides for Graduate Students

These guides from other libraries provide detailed advice appropriate for graduate and undergraduate research projects.