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Literature Search: Getting Started

What is a Literature Search?

The purpose of a literature search is to locate all relevant materials on a particular topic, including books, journal articles, reports, and conference papers.

Prior to beginning a search, library users should complete several steps, including:

  • Formulating a topic that is neither too narrow nor too broad;
  • Developing appropriate search terms; and
  • Defining the scope of the search with respect to time frame, language, geographical area and language.

Users should also consider the format of the information that they are seeking. In general, researchers will locate the most current information in periodicals, such as journals and conference reports. This is particularly true of research in scientific and technical fields, in which information and knowledge often change at a rapid rate. Books remain a good source of information for historical research as well as for fields where knowledge is more static. Books and ebooks can also be a good starting point for research in any field. They can provide researchers with a broad overview of the field of interest.

Explore the other tabs in this guide to learn more about the tools available and how to use them.

Tools for your search

The Commerce Research Library has several tools for performing these searches, including:

  • Library Search, the Library’s federated catalog which searches across many databases, including the many EBSCO databases, ProQuest ABI/Inform, and HeinOnline.
  • LexisNexis, a subscription research database provides access to many scholarly journals, but cannot be searched in Library Search. 
  • Microsoft Academic, a free search engine on the web.