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Literature searching

A guide to finding articles, books and other materials on your subject, and managing the useful references you find.

What is a literature review?

A literature review is an important part of any research project, as it sets your research in context and identifies how it fits with the research that has been done before. You may be asked to write a literature review as part of a dissertation, thesis, or longer project. A key feature of any literature review is how you choose to group the literature into sub-sections or themes to enable comparison.

For further guidance, check this guide on beginning a literature review, created by Study Advice:

If you have been asked to do a systematic review, take a look at our guide:

How can your librarian help with literature searching?

A group photo of the Academic Liaison Librarians team

Your Academic Liaison Librarian is an expert on finding and using information sources. The materials that the Library holds have already been evaluated as being suitable for academic use, saving you time evaluating sources you might find through an internet search.

Your Academic Liaison Librarian will know about the sources listed in your reading list and many more that are appropriate for your topic, which you may not know about. This includes databases and webpages relevent to your subject, and other external resources. They can also help with successfully citing and managing your references. 

Ask your librarian for help on:

  • finding evaluated information sources
  • here to find bibliographic details for your references
  • how to use Endnote to manage your references
  • finding and evaluating web sources
  • finding items on your reading list and beyond
  • citing less common sources

...and any other research based queries - if they can't help, they will know who can!

Why do I need this guide?

Someone working with a laptop and booksA literature search forms part of the wider ‘literature review’ process of almost any major piece of academic research. It involves finding out what other work has already been done in your field. It will help to shape your research by:

  • outlining the intellectual progress of research in your field to date
  • establishing whether your research is original
  • suggesting a narrow and defined scope for your study
  • putting your work into a wider context
  • suggesting possible methodological approaches

This guide will give you tips on doing your literature search and guidance on what to do with the references you find. If you have been asked specifically to do a literature review, see the guidance on the left side of the page under the menu. 

What do you want to know?

Doing your dissertation or major project

You might be writing your literature search as part of your dissertation or major project.

Read Study Advice's guide on dissertations and major projects on using your research skills to find a question, planning, conducting, and communicating your research, and completing your project successfully. 

Video introduction to literature searching

If you are unable to view these videos on YouTube they are also available on YuJa or Stream (University username and password required):