Find, review, and use literature

Overview

Before you can contribute your own ideas in response to your research question (or questions), you’ll need to have a good idea of the current debates around the topic and what is already understood. This means searching the literature.

“Literature” can refer to books, journal articles, professional or trade publications, case studies, or research reports (including dissertations and theses). It includes academic publications and conference papers, but can also include publications by national or local governments, international organisations, and NGOs. It’s important to read widely and keep track of your searches and what you’ve discovered. You also need to reflect and write regularly to develop your own views of others’ ideas.

 

What resources are available?

How do you effectively "review" the studies, theory, cases, commentary and the other material that's out there about your topic?  Find out in this 4-part video course on searching the literature.

What is a literature review and how should I plan a search? 

What are the key concepts and which search terms should I use?

How do I structure a search and how do I choose good quality sources? 

Which catalogues and databases should I use? 

 

Referencing

The Library is the place to come for help with citing and referencing. If you have questions about how or why to cite and reference - or more broadly about what plagiarism is and how you can avoid it, check out this 4-part video series.

Citing and referencing: why, what, when, and how (4 minutes)

Good referencing tips and tools (4 minutes)

What is (and isn't) plagiarism (4 minutes)

Some examples of APA and Chicago style, and footnote style referencing (5 minutes)

At citethemrightonline.com (sign in with your LSE ID for full access) you'll find detailed advice and examples of citations and references in many referencing styles, for all types of sources - from books and articles to government publications and legal cases, but also social media, song lyrics, even grafitti!

With so much literature out there, it's easy to lose track of what you read, where. This is where a digital referencing manager comes in! These pieces of software help you create your own online library of resources that you’ll use in your essays, then generate in-text citations and a reference list in seconds. No more chasing references! When used well, the software does the hard work for you (although you do need to double-check the details!). Check out some of the options available to you with Endnote or Mendeley: which tool to use to reference consistently

 

Who can I speak to?


Librarians are experts in going beyond your reading lists and exploring publications and resources in-depth to find those hidden gems for your research. No question is too big or small when it comes to using the Library's vast resources or referencing them clearly.  You could ask... 

  • What is a literature search "strategy" - what should I be thinking of when I search?   
  • What tools and techniques can help me keep track of my searches and organise my references and notes from various texts?
  • Which databases are suited for finding literature on my research topic?   
  • How do I cite (a tweet, an unpublished confidential report, a painting I saw in a museum, a webpage with no author) and include it in my references?

Different disciplines might call for different approaches to reviewing the literature.  For example, researchers in health topics might need to conduct systematic reviews - and can use this guide to developing a systematic search strategy. Your department librarian can talk you through the research practices in your department - get in touch by email and arrange a convenient to meet online. 

Or maybe you’d like to have a chat with someone who’s done some research before.  It can be helpful simply to bounce around ideas about how to plan and conduct research (and managing a research project alongside competing deadlines!) LSE LIFE study advisers are available for 30-minute appointments - online and in-person on campus - Monday-Friday, 8am - 8pm.  

 

Events and resources

What is a literature review?

Develop and refine your search strategy for your literature review

Explore the literature and use it to focus your dissertation

Read critically within and across texts for your literature reviews

Master citing and referencing with citethemrightonline

 

What next?

Use others' ideas to help you craft your story