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Library Guides

Literature Reviews: Research

Identify Relevant Work

What an exciting part of your research! Here is where you investigate and learn more about your research topic. You can follow these steps:  

  • Broaden your search, getting an overview of all the issues involved in your topic.  

  • Draw an outline of your literature review, identifying the topics that are most relevant, and deciding in what order you'd like to address them.  

  • Identify more literature that addresses the specific issues you want to present in your review. 

See other pages of our guides for more tips on how to choose a topic and formulate your research questions and hypotheses

Broaden your search 

Initially, broaden your search not to overlook relevant results. 

Mind mapping for generating ideas and creative thinking 

Place a blank sheet in landscape position and write the essay question in the middle. Draw branches from the question, which are possible ideas and topics to include in the essay. Add sub-topics (“leaves”) and connect ideas and evidence from your reading. You can use colours and images to stimulate your thinking. Some leaves can be used as key words for your search. 

Mind map

Play with your key words 

Look for synonyms and related terms: 


Topic: “The impact of Covid-19 on the British environment” 

What to search? 

Covid-19 British Environment 

Synonyms and related words: 

Coronavirus; SARS-CoV-2 

Pollution; air quality; waste 

Britain; United Kingdom, UK, England, Scotland, Wales, British Isles, Ireland. 

Be selective: get relevant sources 

Keep an open mind but only look for and use sources which are relevant for your dissertation (unless of course you are reading for interest!). After an initial phase of broadening your research, you should narrow it down and focus on the issues you want to deal with in your literature review. 

How to find sources 

Try different search tools: 

Internet (for example, Google): will give you the largest number of results, but most of the results will not be peer-reviewed and may not be reliable. You can use it to have a general overview of your research topic. 

Library search: this will give you only academic, peer-reviewed sources. All these resources are accessible to you online and/or in the library. See the Library Search Guide.

Library subject guides: these provide subject-specific research support, including access to subject-specific books, journals, databases, legal materials, archives etc. They also provide guidance on citing and referencing. Check your Library Subject Guides

Contact your Academic Engagement Librarian: the Academic Engagement Librarian will be able to suggest resources, search tools and research techniques that can help you get a head start on your research. You can find the details of your Librarian here

Google Scholar: this provides scholarly results as well as technical reports from governments and other organisations, and other academically valuable sources like patents, theses etc. Google Scholar allows the useful feat of forward citation tracking (finding newest sources that cite a given source) that can help you find what other literature comments on a certain source. It has to be noted, however, that not all resources on Google Scholar are peer-reviewed and reliable. See the Google Scholar Guide. 


Hulley, S., Cummings, S. and Browner, W. (2007). Designing Clinical Research. England: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.