Lit Reviews: Have you found everything?

Conducting a comprehensive literature review for a dissertation, thesis, or large-scale research project can be an arduous and overwhelming task. At the library, we receive a number of common questions about this process:

What databases should I search?  Have I located all the influential studies relevant to my topic? What about the less-influential studies? Is it possible I’m missing an obscure article from an unknown journal that will completely alter the course of my research?

In other words, have I found everything?

While literature searches inevitably involve a certain amount of, well, uncertainty, we’ve put together a new research guide  to help you strategize, organize, and, perhaps most importantly, stay in the good graces of a perpetually grumpy dissertation director.

Our guide suggests key library resources (as well as Google Scholar, which can be especially useful for interdisciplinary research), offers helpful search tips (do you know how to tell who has been citing your favorite article?), and lists some options for managing the search process (EndNote! EndNote! EndNote!). All of this stuff can make your life easier and your research more enjoyable and productive. Seriously.

But what about that lingering question: have you found absolutely everything of relevance? Given that new potential sources are being published by the minute (or faster) in a rapidly expanding information universe, it’s always possible to miss something. However, you can alleviate your anxiety by considering the following questions:

  • Have I searched all the major databases relevant to my area of interest?
  • Am I seeing the same authors/sources over and over again?
  • Have I checked through the bibliographies/references of the sources I’ve found?
  • Am I keeping track of new publications through database/journal alerts and regular communication with other researchers?
  • Have I talked to a librarian?

It might seem a little self-serving (sorry!), but that last questions is especially important. Librarians at UofL are more than happy to meet with researchers in any discipline to discuss resources and strategies. It’s not just our job—we love research! You can request an appointment with a librarian on at Ask a Librarian. Good luck with the search!