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A literature review is a survey of research on a given topic. It allows you see what has already been written on a topic so that you can draw on that research in your own study. By seeing what has already been written on a topic you will also know how to distinguish your research and engage in an original area of inquiry.
Why do a Literature Review?
A literature review helps you explore the research that has come before you, to see how your research question has (or has not) already been addressed.
You will identify:
core research in the field
experts in the subject area
methodology you may want to use (or avoid)
gaps in knowledge -- or where your research would fit in
Search appropriate databases to identify articles on your topic.
Identify key publications in your area.
Search the web to identify relevant grey literature. (Grey literature is often found in the public sector and is not traditionally published like academic literature. It is often produced by research organizations.)
Scan article abstracts and summaries before reading the piece in full.
Lists journal articles, books, preprints, and technical reports in many subject areas (though more specialized article databases may cover any given field more completely). Can be used with UC-eLinks to access the full text of many articles.
Indexes graduate dissertations from over 1,000 North American, and selected European, graduate schools and universities. Dissertations published since 1980, and master's theses since 1988, include brief abstracts written by the authors. Offers full text of most of the dissertations added since 1997 . It is possible to search a subset of dissertations produced by UC students by going to Dissertations and Theses @ University of California (available in full text).
Provides access to carefully selected articles and other reference sources in the following areas: African Studies, Anthropology, Atlantic History, Chinese Studies, Classics, Communication, Criminology, Education, Geography, International Law, International Relations, Islamic Studies, Linguistics, Medieval Studies, Military History, Music, Philosophy, Renaissance and Reformation, Social Work, Sociology, and Victorian Literature.