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Finding sources to write a literature review can seem daunting; especially, if you are not certain how to write a literature review or what is a literature review .

So what is a literature review? According to the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, literature reviews “are critical evaluations of material that has already been published” (2010, p. 10).

Literature reviews can be found:™

  • In peer-reviewed journal articles,™
  • as standalone pieces, or
  • as a chapter in a dissertation or thesis.

Literature reviews "serve a variety of purposes:

  • To give a historical overview of the topic
  • To give an overview of the current context in which the research is situated
  • To identify and select relevant theories and concepts for the current research
  • To define and discuss relevant terminology for the research
  • To justify current research by showing a gap in previous research
  • To justify current research by showing there is a practical problem which needs to be addressed
  • To justify current research by arguing that previously used methods will be extended
  • To justify sites of data collection To identify the roots of the methodology, to discuss the terminology used and to justify the approach chosen
  • To position oneself within the field by entering into written dialogue with authors in the field
  • To show an awareness and understanding of relevant theories and empirical research studies in the field" (Blue, 2010, p. 106-107).

Once you determine which of the purposes your literature review needs to fill, you can begin looking for the books and articles that you will need to fill that purpose(s) with your literature review.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Blue, G. (Ed.). (2010). Developing academic literacy. Oxford, GBR: Peter Lang AG. Retrieved from opens new window

Finding Books

quick search box, Books+ tab

To find books on your topic, click on the Books+ tab on the Library's homepage. You can change the dropdown to search by author, title, subject, etc.

searching the catalog does not work like searching Google. You need to break your topic into key concepts.

For example, if your topic is What kinds of government funding are available for K-12 education?, break your search into the concepts of

government funding
K-12 education

Put your search terms of 2 or more words into quotation marks; e.g., "government funding" AND "K-12 education".

Another tip is to use a truncation symbol (usually the asterisk symbol *) to look for alternate endings of a stem word.

"government fund*"
"K-12 education"

For information on locating dissertations, see the Dissertations tab of this guide.

Finding Articles

quick search box, Databases blue button

Finding articles works similarly to finding books in that you need to break your topic into key concepts (see Finding Books above).

To search Education databases, click on the blue button, databases on the Library's home page.

database listing page, selecting subject education databases

On the Databases listing page, select Education in the first dropdown, Choose a Subject.

Education Source is a good database to start your searching. Click on the linked database title, Education Source.

Once you are in Education Source, you will want to add all of the Education databases available from EBSCO. This way you can avoid searching each of these separately. Click on the linked Choose Databases.

add more databases in Education Source

Add more Education databases by clicking on the checkboxes next to the databases you want to add in the Choose Databases pop-up window. Some you may want add include: Educational Administration Abstracts, ERIC, Professional Development Collection, and Teacher Reference Center. Then click on the yellow OK button.

Enter your search terms in the search boxes.

example EBSCO Education database search

As you can see in the image to the left, I have entered "government fund*" in the first search box, "k-12 education" in the second search box, and in the third search box; US OR U.S. OR "United States" OR America.

You can change the dropdown menu if desired. Sometimes it can be a good idea to limit one of your search terms to the title if you find you are getting a lot of results. Click the Search button to perform the search.

At the time of writing, my search returned 10 results. In this case, I would change my second search box to k-12 (take education and the quotation marks out of the second search box). By doing that, my search results went up to 25.

Education database limits

To ensure you are looking at scholarly sources, click on the limits on the left, including Scholarly (Peer-Review ed) Journals and change the earliest publication date to the date range you need. Scroll down a little to set Language limits and click on the box next to Academic Journals.

set up Alert

You can set up an alert in EBSCO to have the databases email to you any articles added that fit within your search. Setting up an alert saves you time because you don't have to come back to the database to redo your search.

Click on the Share dropdown that appears to the top right of your results. Click on Email Alert under Create an alert. Follow the steps as prompted.

Don't forget to go back the Databases list of Education databases and search the others that are not provided by EBSCO (e.g., SAGE Premier and