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Literature Reviews  

How to locate literature reviews.
Last Updated: May 11, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a work of discursive prose that provides a critical account of the existing research and explains how this research is significant to the topic you are studying.


  • Provides the reader with a summary of the most important scholarly literture in the field.
  • Provides information on the current state of research.
  • Explains contrasting perspectives and viewpoints and current controversies on the topic.
  • Identifies significant researchers in the field.
  • Identifies primary methodologies used in researching in this field.
  • Identifies areas of the field that require further research.
  • Explains how the research you are doing fits into the larger research picture.


A Literature Review is NOT:

  • A summary of each article OR
  • A descriptive list of what has been written about the topic

How to Locate Literature Reviews

Literature reviews can be located using databases (periodical or article indexes). Not all databases allow you to search for literature reviews in the same way.  The following databases can be used to locate literature reviews.  Included with the link and database description are step by step instructions for locating a literature review.


    Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts/Oceanic Abstracts/Biological and Medical Sciences

    1. Choose Advanced Search.
    2. Enter the terms you want to search for.
    3. In an empty row, enter the term "literature reviews" (plural). 
    4. At the end of the row, click on the drop-down arrow and change Anywhere to Subject Headings. Click on Search.


    • Aquatic Sciences & Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA)  
      Aquatic Sciences & Fisheries Indexes and abstracts serial publications, books, reports, conference proceedings, etc., on the aquatic & marine sciences.
    • Biological Sciences  
      This database indexes a wide range of research in biomedicine, biotechnology, zoology and ecology, and some aspects of agriculture and veterinary science, providing access to literature from over 6000 sources including serials, conference proceedings, technical reports, monographs and selected books and patents. Includes ASFA: Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts; Biological Sciences; Biology Digest; Conference Papers Index; MEDLINE; Oceanic Abstracts; and Plant Science.
    • Oceanic Abstracts  
      Oceanic Abstracts indexes and abstracts technical literature pertaining to the marine and brackish water environment; marine biology, physical oceanography, fisheries, aquaculture, meteorology and geology, plus environmental, technological, and legislative topics worldwide.

    ERIC - Cambridge Scientific Abstracts

     Eric uses the term literature reviews (plural) as a descriptor. To search for a literature review:

      1. Enter the terms you want to search for.
      2. In an empty row, enter the term "literature reviews" (plural).
      3. At the end of the row, click on the drop-down arrow and change Anywhere to Descriptor. Click on Search.

        • ERIC (ProQuest)  
          ERIC is the largest education database in the world providing indexing and abstracts of all types of materials including journal articles, government documents, books, dissertations, and unpublished materials such as curriculum guides, research reports and conference papers in education and related topics in the social sciences. Many ERIC documents published between 1993 and 2004 are now available online full text.


        PsycINFO via EBSCO uses the term "literature review" in the methodology field. To search for a literature review:

        1. In an empty row, enter the term "literature review" (singular). At the end of the row, click on the drop-down and change Anywhere to Methodology
        2. Enter the keyword(s) or descrioptors you want to search with. Click on Search.

        The following search would find all literature review articles that have been categorized under the Descrioptor (DE) "peer evaluation"


            • PsycINFO  
              PsycINFO indexes and provides nonevaluative abstracts for scholarly, international literature in psychology and related disciplines such as sociology, education, consumer behavior, linguistics, medicine, law, psychiatry, and anthropology. Materials covered include articles from more than 1,300 journals, reports of surveys, bibliographies, books and book chapters, and dissertations. Dates covered: 1840 – present.

            Social Services Abstracts or Sociological Abstracts

            Social Services Abstracts/Sociological Abstracts

            Social Services Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts and LLBA all use the term literature review as an identifier (similar to a descriptor). To search for a literature review in any of these databases:

            1. Choose Advanced Search.
            2. Enter the terms you want to search for.
            3. In an empty row, enter the term "literature review" (singlular).
            4. At the end of the row, click on the drop-down arrow and change Anywhere to Identifier. Click on Search.

              • Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest)  
                Sociological Abstracts indexes literature in sociology and related disciplines. The database provides abstracts of journal articles, books, dissertations, and conference papers.
              • Social Services Abstracts (ProQuest)  
                Social Services Abstracts provide bibliographic coverage of current research focused on social work, human services, and related areas, including social welfare, social policy, and community development.

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