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Reviewing the Literature Room

Reviewing the literature is a major part of any research process. It is important for many reasons, including finding the basis for your research, checking the current knowledge and thinking in your subject area and demonstrating that you can find, read and synthesise a range of literature in your subject domain. As you create your literature review, you will also be building your skills in literature sourcing, retrieval and management. These include effective reading, synthesis, rationale-building, organisation and writing. As you study the constellations in this room, keep referring to the think map on the left. This will help you to see the relevance of a particular constellation to the overall picture.

Reviewing the literature > Sourcing the literature
Astronaut reading on the moon

Reviewing the literature

Sourcing the literature

In all research it is vital that you are aware of the work that has gone on before you in your field, and what is going on now. Literature searching and reviewing are the techniques that achieve this, and an important element of the process is the ability to be critical about what you read rather than accepting it at face value. A literature review or search can be divided into three parts;

  1. Sourcing the literature
  2. Evaluating the literature
  3. Synthesising the literature

The learning materials here are concerened with how you might go about deciding on the literature you will need to review, and particularly on how you might source that literature.




1. Defining your research area
2. Defining your search topic
3. Developing a search strategy
4. Literature search strategy: choosing keywords
5. Literature search strategy: fine tuning
6. Time schedule for sourcing the literature7. Preparing your time schedule
8. Be flexible!9. Potential sources of literature
10. Databases and the library
11. Search engines and information gateways
12. Combining keywords: Boolean operators
13. Truncation and wild cards
14. Refining your search results15. Relevance and coverage of the literature
16. Keeping records of your search17. Search strategy checklist

Authors: Dr Olivia Billingham, Dr Liz Falconer, University of the West of England. Dr Steve Gough, University of Bath

Further reading