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Literature Review: Where to Begin

Where should I start?

  1. If you are confused about your assignment, make sure that you ask the professor questions before you start your research.
  2. Choose a topic.
  3. Research your topic, starting with background information.  Ideally you will start with encyclopedias, books/book chapters, and finally articles.  You don't want to jump into peer reviewed articles, which generally address very specific topics, before you understand the broad topic.
  4. Develop your thesis or research topic.  Revise if your research leads you in a different way.
  5. As you read your sources, write down patterns you see in each source.  This will help you organize your literature review when you start to write it.
  6. If you find holes in your reading, research again to see if you missed a source or if this is a gap in knowledge.

Choosing Literature: questions to consider

How will I set the boundaries of the literature?  What are my rules for considering an article fit for review?  

What are the credentials of the authors of the sources I choose?  Are their arguments supported by evidence?

Are the authors subjective?  Did they consider both supporting and contrary data?

Have I included sources that offer alternative interpretations, or have I only chosen sources which validate my assumption?

Does the source contribute to the understanding of the topic?

How do these sources relate to my research question?