Today we will look at what comprises a literature review, as well as approaches to ramping up our literature search skills.
In a nutshell, a literature review brings together a range of relevant works on a topic, and is intended to:
Although a literature review tells a story, the research process that goes into that storytelling is nonlinear. There are likely many lines of study/angles/perspectives on your topic(s). In this vein, a literature review is iterative and ongoing. Look at a few examples, plus additional insights into the recursive nature of literature searching, here: https://libguides.library.umaine.edu/lit/reviews.
Try one or two of the following advanced search strategies in a database related to your work, in order to find relevant literature in your field.
Then, try one or two of the following advanced search strategies in a different database. Note what works or doesn't, and any questions you have.
1. To get started, review these key search strategies that represent ways to expand or contract your results to get a better, more tailored picture of what may be out there on your topic.
2. Next, select two of the database options from the Some Places to Find Literature (plus caveats!) section above (i.e., OneSearch, or a database or two relevant to your subject area, or URSUS, or Google Scholar via Fogler), open those two databases, go to the Help menus if they have them (usually at the top right of the screen), and identify those databases' advanced search techniques. For OneSearch users, run a search and then click on the three horizontal lines at the top right of the page for a dropdown menu that includes a link to Help.
3. Then, use one (or more!) of those advanced search strategies in a couple of different databases. For example, see how your search results change when you use AND, OR, and NOT, and try a proximity search strategy if you're in one of our subject databases or in OneSearch! Determine how you might further focus your search if you're overwhelmed by your results, or expand your search if you're not getting enough results. Consider whether the two databases you chose provided sufficient results, or if there are other approaches to researching your topic(s) that might work even better.
And, of course, reach out with any questions!
Google Hack Your Research Topic! Spend some time playing around with some of the Google hacks below to see what you can find on your research topic.
There are many ways to strategically search Google, in order to conduct more complex searches and focus your results. In the above example:
BONUS Access Challenge 1: Install the URSUS Libraries Proxy Bookmarklet! Whereas Google Scholar via Fogler is great for finding a range of full text content on the open web, it is not adept at getting you to everything you might have access to via Fogler Library, like eBook chapters in our large eBook collection, online conference proceedings, and even articles that Google Scholar can't find but Fogler Library can (that's right, Google has its limitations!). However, the Proxy Bookmarklet allows you to quickly and easily access subscription journal articles and other electronic resources you find when doing research outside of the University's website. For example, if you are doing your research via Google, and you find a link to a resource that is only available for a fee, the bookmarklet will reload the page through the University's proxy server and provide you with full text access to the resource if we subscribe to it.
Install the Bookmarklet - it's a cinch! Go to the Proxy Bookmarklet page - it's a quick, two-step drag and drop!
How to use the URSUS Libraries Bookmarklet
BONUS Access Challenge 2: Create (or Reactivate) Your Interlibrary Loan Account! It's likely that Fogler Library doesn't have a copy of everything you'll ever need for your research and creative projects. However, we'll go to great lengths to get you what you need, from other libraries across the country and throughout the world. And, Interlibrary Loan is free! Go to the link above and click on 'For the First Time User' to set up your account, so that you can request books, articles, chapters, microfilm, videos, and other material we don't own. Already have an account but forgot your password? Go to the link above and click on 'Forgot Your Password' to reactivate your account.
You may do any or all of the following as you prepare literature reviews for projects, publications, conference papers, and presentations.
A. You will likely conduct an initial literature review to:
You may have an initial thesis or hypothesis that, once you become more informed on your topic, you revise (sometimes multiple times).
B. As you further refine your research question(s) or interests, a more focused literature review will help you zero in on the concepts that are important to your particular area of inquiry.
C. As you conduct your experiment, ethnography, analysis, or field experience, other questions may arise, and further literature searching may become important.
D. Once you've completed your experiment, ethnography, analysis, or field experience, you will want to situate your findings in the literature. This may be come, in part, from literature you already have on hand. However, you may also encounter issues or themes during the course of your study that you want to further understand or expand upon through additional literature searching.
As you think about ways to weave literature into your work (and depending on the expectations in your field), consider these three examples of how literature reviews show up in different types of publications. You will find descriptions and links to three types of literature-rich papers below, and snapshots of the papers themselves in the carousel at the bottom of the page.
1. Understanding Information Spreading in Social Media during Hurricane Sandy The type of literature review we're most likely familiar with is the one that serves as a section of a piece of writing, usually near the beginning (e.g., in a paper, article, or book chapter). Although often called "Literature Review," this section is sometimes called "Introduction" or "Background." This type of literature review sets the stage for the research, critique, or analysis to come, and gives the reader a sense of the most important scholarship on a particular topic (and with context!).
2. Providing Health Consumers with Emergency Information A literature review can also comprise an entire paper. For example, a review article can help define or describe the scope of a particular issue or phenomenon to date. In this article, the authors examine a range of research focused on the effectiveness of social media use during public crises. These types of articles can be rich resources, not only to get a general understanding of where things stand with a particular issue, but also for identifying additional relevant literature on one's topic(s).
3. Does Compassion Go Viral? While not called a ‘literature review’ per se, we often see cited literature return to a paper/article/book chapter in the Discussion section (scroll to the Discussion section of this article as an example). Authors will often situate their findings within other, relevant scholarship by suggesting how their own research builds on, adds to, or echoes existing literature. You may also see authors address ways in which their findings diverge from or disagree with previous scholarship - this has the potential to spur new lines of thinking (and research questions!) around a topic, as well as novel approaches to addressing that topic.
Congratulations on completing Day 1 of the Literature Review Challenge! There are myriad additional strategies to explore, including but not limited to:
If any of this piques your interest, or if you'd simply like an expert sounding board, we have subject librarians ready to brainstorm with you regarding your research and creative interests. Please reach out - we'd love to connect with you!
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