Plan and conduct your literature search

How to carry out an effective and comprehensive search of your literature. Careful planning is essential.
This set of online resources mirrors our face to face ‘Planning your literature search’ workshop for PhD students.

Plan your literature search

Search magnifying glass green

  1. How confident are you in finding and managing information?
    Use this self-assessment questionnaire Adobe Acrobat (PDF) [PDF, 186 KB] to reflect on your literature searching skills and identify areas you might need to develop.
  2. What does the information landscape look like? video [Video, 1 minute]
    Review the information and publishing landscape and think about how it relates to your research area. Identify important types of information you will need for your research. The types of information you need will affect where and how you search.
  3. Why is literature searching important? video [Video, 3 minutes]
    The type of research and literature review you are doing will affect the type of literature search strategies you will need to use.
  4. What is your search strategy? video [Video, 2 minutes]
    What types of search strategy do you already use? What other types of search strategy will you also need to use?
  5. Can you improve your search results? video [Video, 1 minute] This section focuses on keyword searching and search techniques such as truncation, wildcards, phrase searching and limits to help you understand the elements of an effective search strategy
  6. Now have a go at planning a keyword search strategy for your research topic using sections 1-5 of the planning template Adobe Acrobat (PDF) [PDF]
  7. Where can you find sources for your research? video [Video, 3 minutes]
    Identify how to obtain materials relevant to your research then
    complete section 6 of the planning template Adobe Acrobat (PDF) [PDF]

Conduct your literature search

  1. Getting started with databases video [Video, 2 minutes]
    This tutorial will demonstrate a popular database and show how to search with limits and follow citations.

  2. Now have a go at applying your literature search plan.
    Use your subject pages or our Databases A-Z listing to find suitable databases.

  3. Use the search summary formWord icon [Word] to reflect on the search options used and the results you found.

  4. How can you evaluate your search and revise your search plan? video [Video, 4 minutes]
    This section focuses on what to do if your search generates too many results or not enough.

  5. Now have a go at refining your search
    Visit your subject page to try a different database.

  6. How can you get hold of the materials? video [Video, 2 minutes]
    A step-by-step guide to obtaining different types of material. You can use Document Supply or visit other libraries. Our guide to finding conference papers will also be useful. 

  7. What stage comes next in your literature search? video [Video, 3 minutes]
    Take a look at the different stages involved in conducting and evaluating your literature search.

Now you have experience in conducting and refining your search you might like to work through our Make research information come to you materials.

You will need to critically evaluate the literature you find. Workshops on the Literature Review, Effective Reading and Note-Taking and Critical Thinking can be booked via MyPGR.

We recommend you use a system for managing your references.  There are various pieces of software that can help you do this. The University provides access to EndNote and RefWorks.

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