· A literature review is essential for all research, whether the end product is a poster, paper, presentation, or article. The purpose of searching the literature is to discover what needs doing, to answer questions, and to establish a frame of reference for your research. It also lends legitimacy to your work, by showing you know how your project relates to previous research.
Find a recent, solid article on your topic (or a few).
Who does this article cite? Follow trails backward through the literature by following the references. You can also use Scopus and Google Scholar to discover who has cited the article in question.
Identify landmark, foundational research by looking for articles that are ubiquitously cited.
Read the articles with a critical eye. Identify methodological strengths and weaknesses. If you can identify gaps, areas not addressed, limitations or things that are “beyond the scope” of an article, you may find a niche your work can exploit.
Never cite a second-hand citation (i.e. something you haven’t read.)
Beware of citing trade publications or popular works. Always find the primary sources behind the press release or popular article. This is different from your fieldwork in which you may be relying on professional magazines or advice from message boards. For literature reviews, stick with peer-reviewed, scholarly research in books, journals, conference proceedings and government publications (whether online or in print).
CVM Library is often asked for help in designing searches for animal alternatives to comply with IACUC regulations. Here are some resources and ideas to get you started: