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Research Guides

Nonprofit Management

Doing a Literature Review

I.  What is a Literature Review?
The purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies. It can be a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern, combining both summary and synthesis.

II.  Getting Started with a Workshop Video (Highly recommended!)

III.  What Major Steps and Basic Elements Literature Reviews Require?

  • Identify your topic of interest and formulate a research question
    • Overview of the subject, issue or theory under consideration, along with the objectives of literature review
  • Perform a literature review, finding materials relevant to the subject being explored
  • Generate related questions and determine which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic
    • Division of works under review into categories (e.g. those in support of a particular position, those against, etc)
    • Explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others
  • Analyze and interpret, discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature
    • Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research

IV.    Which Citation Tool Are You Going to Use to Manage the Literature Sources?
Choose your citation tool before conducing your literature reviews.  There are a number of choices, including following software supported by the Libraries and the University:

While the above guide provides some assistance, Wendi Kaspar and the staff at PSEL are happy to sit down and help with specific topics.

Cited Reference Searching

Cited references are the sources consulted in writing an article or a book, often referred to within the text of the work. A list of cited references may appear as Bibliographic Notes, Footnotes or Endnotes, References, List of Sources Cited or Consulted. In order for an article to be cited, it needs to have been published for a long enough period of time for another published article, citing it to appear.

These listings can be helpful in a number of ways:

  • Finding an article on a relevant topic and accumulating similar helpful resources
  • Following a specific idea or theory back to its first appearance in the literature
  • Finding articles that build on a specific theory or the most recent article on a topic
  • Identifying experts or leaders on a specific topic
  • Documenting scholarly reputation and impact for tenure and promotion

The cited reference databases are efficient in pulling together many articles on a topic with their references and in identifying which articles on a topic have been cited most frequently.  They can also help identify the “top” journals in a field by impact factor, which may be useful for assessing them.

Caveat:  While cited references are often used, none of the resources listed herein are by any means comprehensive.  These resources cover defined subject areas and are limited to certain journals, and thus only contain the citations from those journals.

Searches can be done by:

  • Title or Topic
  •  Author or Editor – The Author Finder tool includes variations on an author’s name
  • Journal or Publication Name
  • Grant Name or Funding Agency
  • Limited by year, Language, Document Type 

The citation of the article  will be retrieved with its references as well as the number of times cited and by whom.

You can refine your search results by subject area, useful when there is more than one author with the same name, or by document type.  You can see the number of articles in your set contributed by particular authors and institutions and can create a citation report to identify which articles in your results have been cited the most.

You can easily export your results to bibliographic software like EndNote or RefWorks.

Articles can be searched by:

  • Title
  • Abstract word or keyword
  • Source or journal
  • Author (by name or by affiliation)
  • Limit by date or document type

The database allows accounts to be set up and can save search alerts and journals lists.  Scopus also provides journal analytics including data and graphs to illustrate the total citations, articles published, trend line and % not cited over time.  It has the ability to exclude self-citations.