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Guide for Thesis Writers: Research Strategy

Locating and Accessing Information

a) Using Existing Literature Reviews Literature reviews may already exist on some aspect of your topic. Search online databases carefully to find literature reviews. For example, the ABI Inform database has "Literature Reviews" as a Document type in the advanced seach option.

DE=(Literature Reviews) and standardized tests

b) Classic and Landmark Studies It is usually important to comment on classic works on your topic. Not doing so might be considered a failing of your review. While it is not always easy for one not yet an authority on the subject to be aware of landmark or particularly influential works, the more one researches, generally the more one recognizes names that are mentioned over and over as seminal and/or influential authorities.

Careful research in databases will often bring to light articles that mention classic works. It may be useful to use such keyword terms as “classic” or “landmark’ in your searching of databases.


Many scholarly articles contain literature reviews, so as you conduct your research you will probably be exposed to quite a few.

To search directly for a literature review, go to a library database and search for:

   "literature review" AND [your research topic].

Many scholarly journals also publish long and extremely detailed literature reviews.  These are usually included in journals with "Annual Review of..." in the title.  You can look at these as examples of large-scale literature reviews, although what you produce in your research papers will probably not be quite so comprehensive.

Google Scholar Search - Proxied

Google Scholar



What to do when you find the perfect article

Jump for joy!  And then...

  • Find the subject headings on the landing page of the article--you can use these in new keyword or subject heading searches to find similar articles
  • Check the bibliography--see what sources they used, and then go find them yourself using either the catalog (for books & book chapters) or the Journals page (search for the journal titles to see if we have access)
  • Find the artcle in Google Scholar (be sure to use either this box or access GS from the library homepage so you will get links to the articles). Look to see who has cited that article ro fid more current relevant articles.
  • Check to see if the article is in the Web of science databases. If so, find the article in Web of Science, and look to see who has cited that article--this might give you ideas for how the article can be interpreted, and also an idea of its' influence (just don't expect a lot of citations for new articles)

Seminal Works

What is a seminal work?

Some papers are of central importance to a research topic, often because they report a major breakthrough, insight, or a new and generative synthesis of ideas.  This kind of paper may describe a study that changes our understanding of a topic, or describes and illustrates a new and highly useful research method.  These kinds of articles are often referred to as seminal or classic papers.  They form the "canon" of works important to a topic.  When writing a literature review on a topic, it is essential that you include any relevant seminal or classic papers. 

How do you find seminal works?
Because seminal works are often the founding or central publication in a research area, they are cited in most research papers that are working in that research area.As you perform literature searches on a topic and read the papers, you will likely see these papers cited over and over again in research papers and review articles. 

In fact, authors may refer to a specific work as "seminal" or "influential" or "core" or "classic" or describe the work in some way that indicates its central importance to a body of research.  Another tool for locating or identifying seminal works is citation analysis which is a tool that can help identify papers that are cited many times in the literature.