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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.

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