Skip to Main Content
STEP 1: Choose a Topic.
Informally, explore a topic you find fascinating or troubling, that you enjoy, or that you are passionate about.
Is there enough published material on your topic generally to allow you to perform a meaningful review? Two or three items would make a weak review.
REALITY CHECK: You can't review the literature on a topic that hasn't been researched to some extent. If you can't find articles or books on your topic with basic searching, maybe nothing has been written about that topic yet. Consider lengthening your time frame. Contact a librarian to help with search terms and places to search.
ADVICE: Do some informal exploring before emotionally attaching to a topic.
STEP 2: Predict the Location of Information on the topic.
Ask yourself where information on your topic might be located.
Newspapers? Government websites? Books? Magazines? Scholarly Journals?
If your topic is Nursing Education Theory, don't look in an Agriculture database.
Is your topic cross-disciplinary?
Autism interventions can be found in Education databases, Medical databases, Child Development databases, Psychology databases, and maybe even Family Sciences databases. If the interventions include equipment, then Science databases, Engineering databases, and even Business database might be necessary.
STEP 3: Choose your Search Tools.
Use a variety of tools to get comprehensive results.
Search Engines such as Google Bing Yahoo DuckDuckGo Google Scholar
Library databases Library catalogs Bibliographies Archives Institutional Repositories, etc.
One single information search tool will NOT find everything you will need for an adequate literature review.
Use a variety of tools: library catalogs, library databases, internet search engines, etc.
STEP 4: Identify appropriate information formats.
*Book Chapters * Research Articles * Videos * Newspaper articles * Blog posts * Audio Recordings * Conference papers * EHRs
Keep in mind that some topics have a TIME component. Information on topics that are historical may not be found online.
You may have to search print resources by hand. Physically browse Library shelves. Locate and search archives.
Information on topics that are extremely current may only be available online: news websites, blog posts, twitter, etc.
STEP 5: Choose search TERMS carefully.
The BEST search begins with a search for the RICHT SEARCH WORDS. If you identify the RIGHT WORDS, the literature will fall into your lap. When choosing serach terms, be comprehensive. Think of as many words as you can.
Use Natural (plain) language search terms -- common words, everyday words
Use Controlled Vocabulary -- formal or technical terminology (MeSH, Library of Congress Subject Headings, Database Subject Headings)
THINK SYNONYMS, lots of synonyms.
Examples: Brain Cancer * Brain Neoplasms * Brain Tumor * Brain Malignancy * Intracranial Neoplasm * Cerebral Ventricle Neoplasm * Infratentorial Neoplasm * Cerebellar Neoplasm * Neurocytoma * Pinealoma * Supratentorial Neoplasm * Glioblastoma Multiforma, etc.
STEP 6: Devise a Search Strategy
Make a Plan * Follow Your Plan * Document Your Work
STEP 7: Analyze Results.
Read each result carefully and critically.
Create a matrix or spreadsheet to document strengths, weaknesses, important data, etc., of each results/article/study.
Note your personal observations (positive & negative).
STEP 8: Write
Keep the following in mind when writing:
STEP 9: Cite all Sources.
Avoid Plagiarism. Follow Copyright Laws.
Follow one citation style.
Use citation software (Mendeley, RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)