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Conducting a Literature Review

Practical Tips for Literature Reviews

Research Tips for Literature Reviews

1. Choosing Your Topic

  • make sure that you choose a topic that is not too narrow or too broad - you can always refine your topic as you learn more about it
  • you may have to reevaluate your topic based on whether there is too much literature or too little
  • define some selection criteria for exclusion of irrelevant papers to limit your scope (e.g. how many studies do you need to look at, how many years?)

2. Researching Your Topic

  • create a research plan, including a list of different search words, synonyms, and phrases for your topic and experiment with these in your search (e.g. try adding/subtracting search words or swapping them out and see how the results differ)
  • plan to use multiple databases and resources (e.g. ProQuest Central, CINAHL, Google Scholar)
  • pay attention to bibliographies and reference pages
  • focus on the most frequently cited literature about your topic and literature from the best known scholars in your field
  • note the keywords that authors use and incorporate them into your search
  • look for existing literature reviews on your topic (TIP: These can usually be found in Library databases by adding "literature review" as a keyword in your search

3. Tracking

  • you will be reading a lot of different sources and you will want to keep track of them so your search can be replicated
  • a citation manager like Refworks is an excellent tool (Find Refworks on the A-Z List of Databases)
  • keep notes on papers that you can't access immediately so you may try retrieve them later
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