It is important to define the problem or area which you wish to address. Having a purpose for your literature review will narrow the scope of what you need to look out for when you read.
Relevant materials will probably comprise a range of media:
Much the best place to start the search is your own university library if you are attached to a university. If you are not, find the nearest academic library with a good collection in your subject area. Most academic libraries have well qualified and helpful staff who will be more than happy to help you. Start by looking at their OPAC (online public access catalogue) which is a database of their resources.
You could also refer to other relevant library catalogues, such as the British Library catalogue, the National Union Catalogue (Library of Congress), and, through their URLs, other large academic libraries.
Most libraries will also have indexes of periodicals, e.g. Business Periodicals Index, and abstracting services, e.g. Dissertation Abstracts.
Keywords are a good search strategy, and here it is better to use specific rather than general keywords and phrases.
The Internet – via search engines, metasearch engines, subject gateways and directories – has become a hugely popular place to search, but there are also huge pitfalls. The following websites provide useful advice on searching the Internet:
If you are fairly new to research, you could do well to acquaint yourself with the pitfalls of evaluating material on the Internet. The following web resources are particularly helpful:
The last site has good advice on how to do library research; obviously a lot is geared to their own collection but much is also fairly general, particularly that which relates to searching on the Internet.
Here are some points to consider when evaluating material (please note that this is not an exhaustive list).
Initial appraisal from raw bibliographical data:
Appraisal based on content analysis:
The following website provides good pointers as to how to evaluate material:
What themes emerge and what conclusions can be drawn? What are the major similarities and differences between the various writers? Are there any significant questions which emerge and which could form a basis for further investigation?
You are now at the stage when you can write up your literature review.