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SPEA V491 Honors Research in Public and Environmental Affairs

Instructor: Schnable

Conducting a Literature Search

A comprehensive and systematic literature search is a fundamental aspect of the review process. It uncovers all relevant knowledge and research methods related to a topic or research question (McCabe & Timmins, "How to Conduct an Effective Literature Search").

Step 1: Initial Exploration

Initial topic exploration can provide background information, point to core sources and experts, and/or be a springboard for more in-depth research. In addition, what you learn from the literature may help you broaden or narrow your research topic. The following multidisciplinary resources are good places to begin exploring your topic. 

Explore a research question or topic by locating and reading review articles. Use the "Document or Publication Type" field available in most databases to limit your search to review articles or add the phrase "literature review" or "review article" to a search.

Step 2: Discipline-specific Resources

Below are some general resources that provide public policy/affairs specific information; however, you topics most likely will be interdisciplinary and you may need to consult the A to Z list of databases for SPEA, the Research tab on the IUB Libraries' website or the Find Full-text Journals link.

We are focusing on scholarly journal literature here, but policy literature encompasses many types of sources.

Step 3: Finding Journal Articles from a Citation

Citation involves properly crediting the authors of information sources used in a paper or presentation. You will need to cite if sources are directly quoted and/or paraphrased or if reading a source contributed to the ideas presented. Citation can also be used to follow the scholarly conversation or progression of an idea through the literature. Use the works cited/bibliography (works cited within a paper) and cited references (publications that have cited the original) for assistance.

Trying to locate an identified publication from a citation? Find Online Journals link to determine what database(s) index or house the full-text of a journal. If electronic access is not available, search IUCAT to see if there is a print subscription. If there is no print or electronic subscription currently available, individual articles can be requested through InterLibrary Loan