Finding Relevant Literature
As you begin searching for literature related to your topic, it is helpful first to think carefully about your topic, and identify the main concepts and alternate terms which can be used to describe the concepts. Remember that a topic may be described by a number of terms, and these terms may vary depending on the country of origin. For example, multidisciplinary teamwork is a phrase used in North America to describe what is often called interdisciplinary teamwork in Britain.
It is a good idea to start searching for recent materials and then gradually work your way backwards. Examining the bibliographies of the items you read can be a good way to locate important sources in your field, as well as other sources which may be of use to you. Keep track of sources which are cited in more than one source – this could be a clue that they are key pieces of literature. As you are searching (and reading), pay close attention to the terms that are used within each document, as it may be helpful to use them in your search strategies.
The types of resources you will need to search will vary somewhat depending on your topic. For some topics journal databases and the Internet will provide the most useful results, while others will require you to examine books as well. Think about the types of sources you need, e.g. archival documents, government documents, publications from non-governmental organizations, current journal articles, books, white papers etc., as this can help you determine where to start searching.
Having a clear understanding of your research topic can help you to determine where to look for information. Consider these questions as you work through this process:
- How can I restate my research topic? How would I describe it to someone who knows nothing about the topic?
- What are the major concepts in my research topic?
- What other terms might be used to describe the main concepts?