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Preparing to Write the Literature Review: Immersion

This guide describes search techniques to help you conduct your review of the literature. It assumes you already have a research problem to investigate and you know how to do basic research. It does not show you how to write your literature review.

Step One

You really need to be immersed in your research in order to feel confident enough to ask hard questions, take chances, and make new knowledge. It can take a long time to become immersed in a research problem, but there are some strategies you can use to help you go deeper.

Step One

To begin the process, find one relevant article, using either a keyword search or a subject search in the database of your field. When you find one that suits you, go to Step Two.

Step Two

Step Two

As you read the article, highlight  new keywords, the names of frequently cited researchers, book titles, related theories, unique phrases, associations, assessments, and URLs.

Use new keywords, unique phrases, assessments, and related theories as keyword searches in your database of choice. They may lead you to other articles of interest.

To find other articles written by frequently cited researchers, open the database of your field, go to the advanced search page, and type in the researcher's last name and first initial with an asterisk. 

for example: smith, a* 

Change the drop-down menu to "Author" and search. Your results will include articles written by that researcher.

Use Social Science Citation Index to see who has cited authors of interest.

Google any associations and websites that are referred to in your original article. Evaluate the site for authority. Many government websites, for example, have statistics and original studies that may support your research.

To find books whose titles appear in your article, open the library catalog, type in the title of the book, change the drop-down menu to "Title" and search. If we have the book, write down the call number and check the book out. If we don't have the book, use ILL to borrow the book from another library.

Step Three

Step Three

Return to your original article. Read the article again, highlighting pertinent passages that include in-text citations. Follow each highlighted citation to its partner in the reference list.

Use the Citation Finder to find out if the library has a referenced article.

You will need the title of the journal and the year the article was published in it. If we have the journal, there will be a link to the journal and you can search it for the article you need. If we don't have the journal, you can request an interlibrary loan.

To find books whose titles appeared in the reference list, open the Pfau Library Catalog, type in the title of the book, change the drop-down menu to "Title" and search. If we have the book, write down the call number and check the book out. If we don't have the book, use ILL to borrow the book from another library.

Step Four

Your next step is to pick another relevant article, and then another.... By the time you're done, you'll have a clear understanding of the literature surrounding your research problem.