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Literature Review Challenge for Undergrads

Welcome to Day 2 of the Literature Review Challenge!

Building on your research topic, and question(s) that you defined (or refined) yesterday, today we will look at approaches to ramping up your literature search skills. 

Some Places to Find Literature (plus caveats!)

  • OneSearch, on Fogler Library's home page, searches many of Fogler's electronic resources and points to things like e/books, articles, government information, maps, films, dissertations, and theses. Keep in mind:
    • results prioritize articles, so it can sometimes be challenging to find books;
    • OneSearch looks for online articles and can miss articles in print.
  • URSUSFogler's shared library catalog (along with other UMaine campuses and area libraries), points to things like e/books, serials, government information, maps, films, dissertations, and theses. Keep in mind:
    • you can limit your search to University of Maine if you want to only see materials you have immediate access to;
    • you cannot search for articles in URSUS (you can search for journals and databases, but not article titles themselves).
  • Fogler's Subject Databases point to full text and abstracts of popular and scholarly articles, plus descriptions of books, dissertations, and theses related to specific fields of study. Click on the dropdown arrow to find databases in your subject area. Keep in mind:
    • full text is not always included - click on "Article Linker" to see if we have access elsewhere in the library's electronic collections;
    • you can usually filter your results to the type of material you want (e.g., peer reviewed articles);
    • these databases won't link to e/books in our collections, so if you find an interesting book, check URSUS to see if we have it!

Watch the brief video below for search strategies that will optimize your use of our various databases.

From Sarah Clark at the University of Manitoba

Additional examples that build on the video above include:

  • Example 1 (to refine our search and remove unwanted terms): "secondhand clothing" AND sustainability NOT smoking 
    This search will return results about secondhand clothing and issues of sustainability, but not smoking (which often turns up in searches with the word "secondhand"). 
  • Example 2 (to expand our search if we're not getting enough results or we think there must be more out there on our topic): (secondhand OR used OR pre-owned) AND (clothing OR fashion) AND sustainability NOT smoking
    This search will return results that include at least one of the secondhand word options (this expands our search on this concept because it allows for more variations in how we describe secondhand), and at least one of the clothing word options.
  • Example 3: (secondhand OR used OR pre-owned) AND (cloth* OR fashion) AND sustainab* NOT smoking 
    This search will return results with multiple endings on cloth (e.g., cloth, cloths, clothes, clothier, clothiers, clothed, clothing) and sustainab (e.g., sustainable, sustainability). Most databases take us at our word, and will default to returning the exact terms we search. Truncation can increase our results by suggesting alternatives to include in our search. Note: some databases use * while others use !, so check your database's help menu to confirm.

If you are overwhelmed by your results, consider ways to focus your search, like adding relevant terms with AND, such as a term related to geographic regions or populations of interest. 

  • Example 1: (secondhand OR used OR pre-owned) AND (cloth* OR fashion) AND sustainab* AND Maine  
  • Example 2: (secondhand OR used OR pre-owned) AND (cloth* OR fashion) AND sustainab* AND "college students"

Your Challenge: Try One (or Two!) Advanced Search Strategies

1. Select one of the database options described in the Some Places to Find Literature (plus caveats!) section (OneSearch, or a database or two relevant to your subject area, or URSUS).

  • Open the database.
  • Go to the Help menu if it has one (usually at the top right of the screen).
  • Identify that database's 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.

2. Then, use one (or more!) of the advanced search strategies in the database you chose to find literature relevant to your research question(s). Not sure how to proceed in the database you chose? Email me at and we'll brainstorm together!

3. Go back to the research question that you defined or refined on Day 1, and consider if it needs any adjustments at this point.

Optional, Awesome BONUS Challenge 1

Try One (or Two!) of the Advanced Search Strategies Above in a Different Database Related to Your Research Interests. This will give you additional practice with these skills, and provide a broader perspective on your topic.

Optional, Awesome BONUS Challenge 2

Google Hack Your Research Topic! Spend some time trying these Google hacks to see what you can find on your research topic.

Congratulations on Completing Day 2 of the Challenge!

But wait, there's more! There are myriad additional strategies to explore, like:

  • citation chasing to get to additional, relevant literature;
  • search tools like MaineCat and WorldCat that lead to additional, relevant literature in other libraries;
  • and the list goes on...

If any of this piques your interest, or if you'd simply like an expert sounding board, here's another plug for our subject librarians, who are ready to brainstorm with you regarding your research and creative interests. Please reach out - we'd love to connect with you!

5729 Fogler Library · University of Maine · Orono, ME 04469-5729 ; (207) 581-1673

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