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Conducting a Lit Review: What and why?
Literature reviews offer systematic and critical analysis of the literature on a specific topic.  They described trends, quality, relationships, inconsistencies and gaps in the research; and they often offer new interpretations/hypotheses and make recommendations for further research.

Keep in mind...
  • it is not simply an annotated bibliography that summarizes and/or assesses each article
  • there is not one, correct way to approach and write a literature review 
  • it can be a stand-alone paper or part of a thesis/dissertation 
  • format and requirements can vary between disciplines, purpose and intended audience

Why do we write literature reviews?
  • they provide a depth of knowledge of the field of inquiry: facts, theories, important scholars, trends, etc.
  • to gain understanding of methodologies common to the field and appropriateness of various methods
  • to help us understand what is known and what is unknown in the field
  • to help us to determine scope of your question. Usually it will help to narrow or focus a problem/issue, but it may also help you determine where you need to step back and look at a bigger problem/question/theories/etc.
  • Reinforces that your proposed question is a meaningful contribution to the field
  • Generates hypotheses or questions for further studies
Choosing a Database
Start at our Databases page.  From here, you may access the databases in a variety of ways…
  • Browse alphabetically for a specific database
  • Choose “Databases by Subject” to see databases recommended by areas of study
  • Choose “Databases by Type” to see databases with specific types of material (ebooks, statistics, images, etc)

To determine which databases are best for your topic…
  • Look at the “About” pages for each database to determine what is included
  • Look at the recommended databases list for each subject
  • Find the subject librarian/s for areas related to your research and ask for recommendations

A note on Google Scholar and ScoUT...  While Google Scholar and ScoUT are often useful search tools, they are not the best options for a systematic literature review where you'll be describing your search methodology.  This is because what they search and and how they search is unclear and ever changing. Your best bet is to design clear and thoughtful searches in our databases to find your main set of resources.  Then try to replicate your search in Google Scholar and/or ScoUT to see if something bubbles to the top of these results that didn't appear in your database searches.  

Searching Databases & Finding the Texts
Database Search Tips:
  • Don’t search with your topic as a phrase! (i.e.: faculty stress related to tenure processes)
  • Use ANDs to separate important concepts – often this is done by typing each concept into a unique search bar.
  • Use ORs to connect synonyms within a search bar.  Think of all the terms that might fall under the umbrella of this concept (stress OR coping OR anxiety).  
  • When you find a good article, look at the subject headings and adjust your keywords accordingly.

Example search:
sample search in database

Is the article available online?  If the article isn't available full text through the database, click the "Find it @ UT" button  to see if it's available online through another database or the publisher site.
 find it at ut button

Finding and scanning print...  If the "Find it @ UT" button tells you that "no online full text is available" for your article, click on the Library Catalog link to see if the library holds print copies.  If we do, write down the call number to grab it from the stacks.  Then, you can scan and email PDF copies using the KIC scanners in the PCL Periocals Room.

Requesting via Interlibrary Services... If the "Find it @ UT" page tells you we don't own online or print versions, follow the Interlibrary Services link to request a copy.  This service is free and most articles are devlivered online within 2-5 days.
Using Other Lit. Reviews & Citation Counts
Reviewing bibliographies from other literature reviews is a good way to locate new sources and determine which studies/publications are regularly cited in relation to your topic.  When you find or know of other literature reviews on your topic, it's improtant to acknowlege them in your own literature review. To find other literature reviews, try these options....

1. Databases: Search our databases to find other literature reviews on your topic.  You'll get ideas for ways to structure/organization your review and their bibliographies can turn up useful citations for your own review.  Add thse keywords to the last bar of your search: "literature review" OR "review of the literature" OR "systematic review" OR "meta analysis"

2. Dissertations Theses Full Text: See how dissertation literature reviews are structured and review bibliographies of dissertations on related topics.

3. Annual Reviews Online: Exstensive annual literature reviews on a variety of topics.  Citation gold mines when you find a recent, relevant match!

Locating the most-cited sources on your topic is also a good way to ensure you aren't missing important publications in your literature review.  

Google Scholar's citation count will give you a good idea of how many times an article has been cited in a variety of sources (journals, books, conference papers, etc.).
google scholar citation count

Web of Science is focused on citations from high-impact journals, but has gaps in its coverage of social science and humanities journals. 
times cited in web of science

Get help from a librarian!
Workshop Librarians:

Janelle Hedstrom
Librarian for Educational Administration, Educational Psychology, Curriculum & Instruction, Special Education and K-12 Collections

PG Moreno
Librarian for American Studies, Economics, Government, International Studies, Public Affairs and Social Work

Elise Nacca
Learning Librarian

Managing Citations