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Literature Reviews: Search the literature

This guide is designed to help students and researchers undertaking literature reviews

Searching... What? Where? How?

Having a well developed search strategy is key to putting together a great literature review without wasting time. Before you start your search you’ll need to consider what type of information you’ll find, and where and how you will find it.

Don't know where to begin? Try your

Scoping out the what

You need to clearly define what resources you can use.

  Published or unpublished?

  Peer Reviewed?

  Currency of information?

  Primary, secondary or tertiary?

​Unsure? See your lecturer or advisor for guidance.

See more about:

Knowing when to stop

Remember the long tail rule. You will find most of the key literature in your first searches but you could keep searching forever to find all the articles in the 'long tail'.

A good rule of thumb is to stop looking when you find that you keep finding the same results when you search and get few or no new information sources.

Set up search alerts to be notified of any new research that comes out after you stop searching. 

Deciding on the where

There are many ways to find relevant resources, including searching journals, research databases, library catalogues, repositories and archives and the web.

The JCU Library has access to a range of databases that you can use to find information. Find them through:

Two multidisciplinary databases that are useful places to start are:

Why not just use One Search and Google Scholar?

One Search and Google Scholar have their good points and bad points, which is why you need to look further than these sources.



Working out the how

How to start looking for resources

  • Recommended Readings
  • Secondary sources

Building your search strategy

Use a search strategy to find information more effectively and efficiently by:

Combining keywords

AND, OR and NOT are known as Boolean operators.

Modifying keywords

When modifying keywords, consider using:

  • phrase searching

  • truncation

  • wildcards

  • proximity operators

See more about developing your search strategy

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