Earth and Environmental Sciences

Steps involved in completing a literature review

Collecting information

Formulate a winning search strategy:

Once you have identified your research topic or question:

  • Identify your key concepts and some keywords;
  • Group these keywords into a search strategy;
    • Essentially it’s a formula you develop to conduct your search.
  • Sample search strategy:

(coast* OR shoreline) AND (evolution OR change)


"sea level" AND (rise OR change)


“climate change”

  • Test your search string in a few databases and modify if necessary;
  • Run your final search.

Remember that the research process is iterative.

Research tips:

Choose the right database

  • Identify the broad subject area of your topic.
  • Determine  the type of information source  you need (articles, books, statistics, etc.)
  • Select the relevant search tool(s) in order to be thorough

Ensure your database searches will be reproducible:

  • Databases that were searched as well as the search string and/or  keywords that were used.
    • Any additional screening criteria such as a language, date range, etc.
    • Note any problematic terms.
  • Though this does not seem essential at the time, you may need to redo some of your searches at a later date.  Having a detailed record will ensure consistency and will save time.

Further Reading

Journal Articles

Bolderston, A.  (2008).  Writing an Effective Literature Review.  Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, 39 (2), 86-92.

Pautasso, M.  (2013).  Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review.  PLOS Computational Biology, 9(7).  Retrieved from .

Books @ the library