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Nursing: The Lit Review

Consider this your personal library where you will find everything you need to help you complete your course of study.

The Literature Review Process in brief

  • Presearch
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Refining

Lit Review Links

The Literature Review Process

The literature review process can be simplified by breaking it down into manageable pieces.  We will cover the first two: Presearch and Research.

Presearch - Determine your general topic.  Conduct some presearch.  Google Scholar is a good tool to use for this stage in the process.  A search in Google Scholar will provide a large scope view of the literature landscape.  You can also get an idea of the important researchers in your area of interest. An added bonus: you will be able to see a full-text link for items you can find at Riley Library! Use these instructions to set up Google Scholar to display NNU results: 

Research - This is where you want to be in the appropriate database(s).  If you found a reference to a specific journal in your Google Scholar search you can search for the journal title in the library journal list service.  Or you can visit the journal's page on the internet and determine which databases index the journal.

  • Many databases are interdisciplinary in nature.  So don't judge a database by its title.  PsycINFO and SocINDEX (below), for example, both have coverage of counseling, education, and health science journals as well as social work and psychology.

    • Get to know the databases in your area of study.
    • Familiarize yourself with the databases.  Even databases from the same vendor (for example, EBSCO) can have different options or use different terminology ("Subject Terms" instead of "Thesaurus")
  • Use the "shotgun" approach:  Start broad and refine.
    •  Don't worry about being too specific to start.
  • Use a "Last is first" strategy.
    •  Find the newest research first.  Then work your way backward.  This will help you detect patterns in the literature regarding landmark studies and important themes and researchers.
  • Look for "Theory" articles.
    • Theoretical articles that relate directly to your topic are prime material for your literature review.
  • Look for "Review" articles.
    • Review articles can give you an idea of overall landscape associated with the literature.
  • Use Google Books to search for text books or other related books.  The full book might not be available but indexes usually are.
  • Locate the seminal or landmark studies.
    • Make sure it is the original study and *not* someone else's ideas about the study.
  • Adjust the length of your reference list as needed.
  • Consider using unpublished studies
    • Search for the vitae of researchers that interest you.  These can often be found on the websites of the institution (school, professional organization, think tank, etc.) they are associated with.
  • Don't be afraid to contact researchers and authors directly.  They are usually working as faculty at another university and are accustomed to being contacted for a copy of the survey tool they used or conference papers.  They are often helpful and can provide leads to other sources.