The first step towards a good literature review is conducting a comprehensive literature search.
An effective literature search:
Helps clarify your research topic;
Identifies experts and important published works.
Reduces time spent looking for information;
Maximizes the quality of your research results;
When conducting your literature search, remember to:
Use a variety of resources, A literature review should include a range of resources: books, journal articles, reviews, proceedings, papers, dissertations. Do not rely solely on electronic full-text material which is more easily available.
Think of key words and synonyms. Use a thesaurus to do so.
Use reference sources such as dictionaries for unfamiliar terms. Encyclopedias are useful in introducing topics and will list core references. Helpful reference sources may be found at Credo, a collection of over 800 full-text reference books.
Construct a search strategy. Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT). Use "exact phrase" searches. Use field searches (title, abstract). Use subject terms and subject searches.
Citation search: check to see what other authors/papers have cited a core paper you have found--use Google Scholar to citation search.
Be aware of the importance of evaluating information. Is the journal refereed/peer reviewed? Is the source or author authoritative? Is it a primary source? A secondary source?
Broaden your search by looking for literature in related fields.
Keep accurate records of your citations. Software such as Zotero manages citations, provides links back to the full-text, and formats your bibliography.
Source: University of Newcastle, Australia. Used with permission.
Image source: Batholith. Public domain. Wikimedia Commons.