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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.

Which resources should I include in a literature search?

If you are writing a project you will be looking mainly for books and articles published in academic journals. 

Depending on your subject area and the extent of your project or dissertation you may also consider looking for other types of materials, for example:

  • conference papers
  • government publications
  • images
  • laws and statutes
  • newspaper articles
  • standards
  • statistics
  • theses

Can I use websites?

It is important to look for reputable academic materials and not just to rely on websites, many of which are of poor quality and may even be misleading, biased or factually incorrect. Here are some tips for finding and evaluating websites. 

How many resources should I include?

If you are undertaking a literature review for a higher level research degree you must make it as comprehensive as possible – you will need to be confident that no-one else already conducted your piece of research and also that you have identified as much related research as you can. The Study Advice guide on literature reviews gives additional information on planning and developing your literature review.

For shorter projects you may satisfy the academic requirements by limiting your search to easily available books and articles.

Many projects will fall somewhere between these extremes – you may wish to check what is expected of you in your School handbook or in discussion with your tutor or supervisor. Showing that you have read widely will never lose any marks.