Conducting a Literature Review

The Research Process

Identify and develop your topic

  • State your topic as a question you wish to answer
  • Test your topic question with your instructor, colleagues or reference librarian for clarification
  • Identify main concepts and develop a list of keywords from your topic statement
  • Gather background information on your topic 

Identify the search tools you will need to find information on your topic

  • Use USF Libraries Catalog to for books, media, and other online resources owned by the USF Libraries. Use other catalogs, such as WorldCat, to search for books outside of USF
  • Use Subject specific Databases to search for articles and book chapters in a specific discipline. 
  • Use multidisciplinary databases, such as Web of Science, Scopus, JSTOR and Google Scholar to search broadly in all disciiplines

Develop a list of keywords and concepts

  • Become familiar with the language of the discipline and professional jargon to develop appropriate keywords to search online search tools such as databases, catalogs, and search engines.
  • Develop a search strategy for searching appropriate databases, utilizing logical operators (AND, OR, NOT) and limiters (format, date, language)
  • Use controlled vocabulary, thesauri, descriptors, and/or subject terms
  • Keep track of successful searches by writing down the keywords used and how you combined them to retrieve results

Evaluate what you find

  • Carefully look at author credentials, date of publication, editor and publisher to determine authority and credibility of source.
  • Carefully examine the intended audience to for the source to determine if it is the appropriate source for your needs. Examine the content for obvious errors, objectivity, support documentation, and coverage of topic.
  • Understand the difference between scholarly journals, professional literature, and popular sources so you know how to use them

Manage what you find by using the appropriate citation format and/or citation manager and avoid plagiarism

  • Understand how the basic elements of the format style you are need to use.
  • Consider using a bibliographic management tool, such as EndNote, Zotero, or Mendeley
  • Understand the pitfalls of plagiarism and how to avoid it.