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Literature Reviews: Getting Started

Frequently Asked Questions

At the start of your process, it may be helpful to create an outline of steps that you will take, and to consider available resources and services that might help you complete every step. Here, we provided a general flow chart in the right box and a list of questions you may ask.  We also provide the following FAQ. Most important is to talk to your mentor about your ideas and questions.

What is my research question?

You will need to discuss with your mentor and/or dissertation committee to choose a valid research question. You may not be able to identify all the specifics at the beginning but narrowing down to a reasonable topic is important.

What kind of literature is appropriate for my research question?

Depending on your area of research, you may need to rely on scholarly articles, books, patent, newspaper articles, conference proceedings, data sets, new media, and so on. 

How much literature should I use?

There is no standard answer to this question.  But make sure that you have enough literature to help tell your story. You may find examples in a workshop provided to graduate students at the University of Michigan. Discussion with your advisor and peers can be helpful too.

How will I make sure that I find all appropriate information that informs my research?

Multiple databases and resources appropriate for your research area should be consulted so that you can have a comprehensive view of what's been done in your area. See the LibGuide about your program area for top databases recommended for your area. Please also consult with a Fielding Librarian to determine the resources you should search and investigate.

How will I evaluate the literature to include trustworthy information and eliminate unnecessary or untrustworthy information?

Start with scholarly sources, such as peer-reviewed journal articles and books. Always pay attention to creditability of the source(s) and the author(s) you cite. Citation analysis can be useful to check the creditability of sources and authors.

How should I organize my literature? What citation management program is best for me?

Citation management software can help you organize your references in folders and/or with tags. You can also annotate and highlight the PDFs within the software and usually the notes are searchable. To choose a good citation management software, you need to consider which one can be streamlined with your literature search and writing process. See our LibGuides on EndNote and Zotero. Here is another guide page comparing a few different types of citation management software with tutorials for each type of software.

What steps should I take to ensure academic integrity?

Familiarize yourself with different types of intentional and unintentional plagiarism and learn about the University's standards for academic integrity. See Fielding's Academic Intergrity Policy. For additional information take a look at  this guide.

Where can I find I find formatting standards?

Fielding has Instructions for Authors.

Steps to write a literature review

litreviewsteps