Understand how to conduct an initial literature search
Identify relevant databases
Develop and use search queries that match your topic
Analyze whether articles are relevant and of high-quality
1. Understand how to conduct an initial literature search
After you have identified a predefined topic or developed your own, it is now time to start narrowing it down. This will be a gradual process in which your topic becomes more and more specific. The goal is to find a specific niche in your topic area that not many people have researched yet. For instance, a question that is still being debated or a very current practical issue. If there is already a lot of research and a strong consensus on your topic, it will be more difficult to justify the relevance of your thesis and to convince your supervisor to accept your topic.
To do so, you should conduct an initial literature search to become familiar with all the studies that have already been published in your topic area.
There are many ways that describe how to conduct a systematic literature search. For the initial literature search, you should follow a three-step approach which is summarised in the following table and described in the next steps of our Playbook:
Identification of the databases in which the literature search is conducted.
Development of relevant search queries which are used to search the databases.
Analysis and synthesis of the identified articles.
What publications exist on your topic? In which research area? How topical are the identified articles?
How do you evaluate the quality of articles? How do you read quickly? How can you keep track of all articles?
How is a literature search conducted? Which databases are relevant? What are your most relevant search terms?