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Writing a Literature Review: Phase 2: Finding Information

Tips on writing a literature review (in any subject).

Locating and Accessing Information

a) Using Existing Literature Reviews
Literature reviews may already exist on some aspect of your topic. Search online databases carefully to find literature reviews. For example, the ERIC database has "Literature Reviews" as a descriptor. If, say, you are searching for an existing literature review on standardized tests, it might be productive to perform the following search in ERIC:

DE=(Literature Reviews) and standardized tests

The database PsycINFO allows one to search by publication type. Accordingly if one is searching for an existing review on aspects of monozygotic twins, one might perform the following search (‘monozygotic twins’ is a descriptor in this database):

DE=(Monozygotic Twins) and pt=literature review


b) Classic and Landmark Studies
It is usually important to comment on classic works on your topic. Not doing so might be considered a failing of your review. While it is not always easy for one not yet an authority on the subject to be aware of landmark or particularly influential works, the more one researches, generally the more one recognizes names that are mentioned over and over as seminal and/or influential authorities.

Careful research in databases will often bring to light articles that mention classic works. It may be useful to use such keyword terms as “classic” or “landmark’ in your searching of databases.

 

 

Locating and Accessing Information

a) Using Existing Literature Reviews
Literature reviews may already exist on some aspect of your topic. Search online databases carefully to find literature reviews. For example, the ERIC database has "Literature Reviews" as a descriptor. If, say, you are searching for an existing literature review on standardized tests, it might be productive to perform the following search in ERIC:

DE=(Literature Reviews) and standardized tests

The database PsycINFO allows one to search by publication type. Accordingly if one is searching for an existing review on aspects of monozygotic twins, one might perform the following search (‘monozygotic twins’ is a descriptor in this database):

DE=(Monozygotic Twins) and pt=literature review


b) Classic and Landmark Studies
It is usually important to comment on classic works on your topic. Not doing so might be considered a failing of your review. While it is not always easy for one not yet an authority on the subject to be aware of landmark or particularly influential works, the more one researches, generally the more one recognizes names that are mentioned over and over as seminal and/or influential authorities.

Careful research in databases will often bring to light articles that mention classic works. It may be useful to use such keyword terms as “classic” or “landmark’ in your searching of databases.

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Mary Kate Boyd-Byrnes
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