Research Skills Central

Course materials for teachers of information literacy

How to do a literature search

Brian J Matis,

If I had to choose just one class to give out of my programme, it would either be Academic Reading and Writing or this one – and I don’t think I ever could  choose between them!

Where the Reading and Writing session gives students the chance to develop a reflective understanding of academic literacies, ‘How to do a literature search’ aims to offer participants the chance to develop an equally deep and nuanced approach to research information. In both cases the student is called upon to negotiate and make sense of a complex landscape where there are very few givens, value is highly contextual, and even truth conditions themselves vary from discipline to discipline.

This session explains the literature search as

“A detailed and organised, step by step search for all the material available on a topic” (Robert Gordon University)

and invites participants to consider that how they choose to word their research question will determine what constitutes “all” the relevant material. It then situates the literature search as an iterative process during which the research question may well evolve as the researcher becomes more familiar with his/her topic context and the conceptual relationships between the key themes in the question.


Slides (November 2013)

‘Your literature search plan’ worksheet (October 2013)

Keyword grid (October 2013)

Resources for literature searching handout (November 2013)


Creative Commons Licence
How To Do A Literature Search by Emma Coonan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Image: ‘I guess it makes sense for a robot to read an e-book [401]’ by Brian J Matis,, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


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