Once you have decided what form your literature review will take, it’s time to start searching. The University of Exeter Lib guide on search techniques defines five key stage in searching for information (Figure 1). The first of these stages is considering information sources. Sources can be primary, secondary or tertiary in nature and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Primary information is original material, Secondary includes interpretation or analysis of other sources and Tertiary consists of the categorisation of a collection of sources. All are relevant to your review, but understanding potential biases and qualities is important. Most scholarly books and journals have underwent extensive peer review processes, whereas webpages tend to go through less scrutiny.
Next, it is important to consider where you searching. Google is fine, but in order to narrow your results to those of peer reviewed journals and books, using a search database specific to your field can help. There are a number of databases including Pubmed and Web of Science for science specific sources, or google scholar has scholarly pieces from all fields. We have included links to a video tutorials for these databases, but feel free to use whichever is most useful to you.
Once you have found a paper relevant to your topic, citation searching can increase your chance of finding related relevant sources. Citation searching is the process of using a paper to find additional, similar published pieces either using the bibliography of referenced papers or by searching for papers that have cited this particular paper in their own. Backward searching or bibliography mining involves researching the papers sourced in your chosen article as they will have included relevant papers but will not include any more recent sources than the date of publication. Many search databases including google scholar and web of science include a link to “cited by”, which will link to all the papers that have referenced your chosen source. This is known as forward searching as it searches more recently than the current source
You can book a 1:1 appointment with the library liaison team for advice and to help you make the most of the library resources. You can find out more and book an appointment on the Library Liaison LibGuide.