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Conducting and Writing Literature Reviews

Before You Search, Select a Topic

  • Write your topic in the form of a question.
  • Brainstorm keywords and related terms.
  • Find background information on your topic using subject encyclopedias or handbooks.  Hint: Search the EagleSearch Box for your topic and combine with encyclopedias or handbooks to see what resources are available. A better understanding of your topic can help you narrow down and focus your search. 
  • Search relevant databases for articles using keywords. Use more than one database!
  •  Are you finding additional terms or subject headings related to your search? Jot down some of these terms and revise your search terms as necessary.
  • Scan the articles with a critical eye.   Ask who, what, when, where, why?  An excellent resource for analyzing references is Critically Analyzing Information Sources by the Cornell University Libraries
  • Is your topic researchable?  Are you finding enough articles?  If not, revise your search or topic and begin the process again.  

Selecting Articles For Your Review

  • To find studies or literature review articles on your topic, combine your topic with such terms as “literature review” OR “empirical study”.  (In some databases you can narrow your search to literature reviews, qualitative studies, empirical studies, etc.
  • Are there key authors or studies that have been cited numerous times related to your topic? 
  • An excellent resource to use while you are selecting materials is The Literature Review:  A Few Tips on Conducting It by the University of Toronto Libraries. 

Identifying Peer-Reviewed Journals

For help in locating peer reviewed journals, see