Skip to Main Content
Skip to main content

Scholarly Publishing Guide

Intended to assist scholars early in their publishing career.

Process & Product

The phrase ‘literature review’ is used to indicate both the process and its product.

Process:  The process of carrying out a literature review consists in searching all papers relevant to your study. The search starts at a very early stage and shapes up the research question(s) that you plan to address in your project. Aliotta, M. (2018). Mastering Academic Writing in the Sciences : A Step-by-Step Guide. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Product:  The writing product is the outcome of discussing and analyzing previous papers/research.

PLEASE NOTE:  Literature Review, in this instance, does not include Systematic Review.  Systematic Reviews "attempt to identify, appraise and synthesize ALL empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question." ("What is a systematic review?"  Please see our Systematic Reviews and other Evidence Syntheses Guide for more information.

Process: Article databases

Process: Searching techniques

FOUR steps to help you search any database:

  1. Form your search questions and pull out the key terms or phrases you need.

    • Example: Will dexamethasone help reduce post-operative nausea and vomiting in women?

    • Key Term/phrases: dexamethasone, post-operative, nausea, vomiting, women (notice that reduction is not a key term, it is difficult to search for adjectives or most outcomes, excepting mortality or length of stay)

  2. Enter the key terms and phrases individually or as a group separated by AND into the search bar of the database - note the use of quotation marks around phrases in the below examples:

    • dexamethasone AND "postoperative nausea and vomiting" AND women

    • dexamethasone AND postoperative AND "nausea and vomiting" AND women

    • dexamethasone AND postoperative AND nausea AND vomiting AND women

  3. Keep in mind that there are many words for the same concept, so consider alternate searches if you cannot find what you need:

    • Expanded: dexamethasone AND postoperative AND (nausea OR vomiting) AND women

    • Expanded More: dexamethasone AND postoperative AND (nausea OR vomiting) AND (women Or female)

    • Reduced: dexamethasone AND "postoperative nausea and vomiting"

  4. Add necessary limits as allowed by the database:

    • Examples - English language, sex (female or male), publication date (last 10 years, etc.) age ranges (newborn, adolescent, adult, elderly) 

Product: Writing the literature review

"Whether part of a PhD thesis, a research proposal, or a research paper, the literature review fulfils several key functions, namely:

  • it brings the reader up to date with current knowledge on a topic;
  • it locates a gap in research;
  • it provides a justification for undertaking the study (this is especially important in applications for funds, given that the mere existence of a research gap does not necessarily imply it is important to address it);
  • it demonstrates your knowledge on the current status of a field;
  • it provides evidence (through citations) to support your claims, thus affording you a greater credibility." Aliotta, M. (2018). Mastering Academic Writing in the Sciences : A Step-by-Step Guide. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.


See more resources on the Writing Research page of this guide.