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Writing a Literature Review

This guide will help you get started on your literature review by providing basic information on what a review is, how to write it and where to do the research.

Finding Articles in Research Databases

You will often need to look at databases across multiple disciplines in order to be thorough with your literature search. Examples:

Topic Database Subjects
social media and loneliness psychology, computer science
menopause in various cultural contexts health sciences, anthropology, sociology

Finding Articles in Google Scholar

Tip: If you already have a Google account, you can set up your browser to automatically look for articles available through our library:

  • Make sure you are logged in to your Google account.
  • Click on "Settings"
  • Click on "Library Links"
  • Enter "University of Fraser Valley"
  • Click Save

Finding Books

Some useful strategies for successfully finding books in the UFV library:

  1. Start with a simple search of one or two keywords; once you find a book that looks relevant:
    • click on the Title;
    • look at the subject terms used to describe the book; in the Classic Catalogue, these are found on the Catalog Record tab. Subject terms can be used to search for more books and other materials on the same topic (try searching for these terms as a subject).
    • Subject terms in library catalogue
  2. Look for call numbers in your search results that repeat - these can lead you to good areas to browse for books on the shelves; you might find hidden gems by examining the tables of contents or indexes.

Finding Existing Literature Reviews

Existing literature reviews may already be available for your topic. Here are some of the databases that allow you to search for literature reviews:

Here is an example searching for the topic "The use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter in post-secondary education settings." Because most literature reviews use the phrases "literature review" or "review of the literature" in the title, you can simply enter these as keywords in your search:

Some databases, such as ERIC have "literature review" as a subject descriptor. Using this descriptor will allow you to retrieve results that only contain literature reviews:

And other databases provide search limiters to help you narrow your search. In this example in PsycINFO, you can specify "Literature Reviews" in the Methodology Limiter (below the search boxes):

Following Citation Trails

Following citation trails will help you find more resources for a particular topic of discussion. It will also allow you to situate a particular work in its greater academic context, and understand how the discussion around it has progressed. By tracking the citation forward (identifying who has cited the article), you can see how previous scholars have responded to the work, including confirmation of research findings, disagreements, corrections, criticisms and further discussions. This, in turn, will help you identify current trends in the research community and other areas for further exploration.

Google Scholar, along with many of the library's research databases (e.g., ERIC, ScienceDirect, and SpringerLink), allows for tracking citations forward. Look for the links "Cited by" (ERIC, Wiley Online Library, and Google Scholar), "Citations" (SpringerLink), "Citing Articles" (ScienceDirect), and "Cited Reference Search" (Web of Science).

Example: Google Scholar

Example: Web of Science

  1. Use the Basic Search drop-down menu to select "Cited Reference Search."
  2. To find a specific article, enter article title and author name (last name first, followed by the author’s initials).

In this example, only one result is retrieved since the exact title was entered. Under "Citation Network" on the right, click on "# Times Cited" for a list of works that reference the article in question. You can also click on "View Citation Map."

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