Research Methods: Doing a literature review

Eira Patterson | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Search engines

Google Scholar is a useful search engine which allows searches to be carried out using key word, subject or author. This can be found at:

If you want to search using a particular phrase keeping the words in the same order, put them in double quotation marks, for example “constructivist informed practice”

Google Scholar will give you the references for the sources and in some cases where articles or conference proceedings etc. are freely available it will give you a link to the article. When you want to access a journal article that you have found via Google Scholar, write down or copy and paste the reference and then use the journal section of your University library catalogue to locate and download the article. It may be the case that the library does not subscribe to that journal, in which case if the article is particularly relevant you could consider ordering an inter library loan or alternatively there is the option to pay for it via the publisher website (but this could work out expensive and should only be used if you know the article is useful and there is no other way to access it). 

Some benefits of using Google Scholar are that it gives you the following useful information in the form of links under each of the search results:

  • Cited by tells you how many people have cited this source and if you click on this it will take you to a list of references for these
  • Related Articles will give you access to articles related to your search, many of which will also be useful for your literature review
  • View as HTML provides a link to a simplified text that does not require Acrobat readers etc
  • Web Search takes you to a web search using key terms generated by Google Scholar in response to your initial search
  • Library Search tells you which libraries have copies of a particular book or journal article
  • BL Direct allows you access to the journals held by the British Library, however this service is not free and the first thing you should do is to find out if your own University library subscribes to the journal.

The Advanced Search facility of Google Scholar is also useful to help you narrow down your search. For example it is possible to enter the journals you want to search in Publication: Return articles published in... If you want to search all journals, but filter out other sources, just enter journal into this box.

Google Books is another search engine that will allow you to focus just on books in your search, however often most of these will also be found in a Google Scholar search. If you use Google Books, you may need to be more specific in your use of search terms.