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CHEM6611: Scientific Communication in Chemistry


2. Literature Search Overview

Overview of library resources supporting graduate research

Literature searching is part of your research. Record the date, database(s), and the search strategy you use.

General Literature Search Tips

  • Start early and give yourself enough time to do a good literature search
  • Plan your search strategy…and plan on revising it as you discover new terms describing your topic
  • Plan to search more than one database
  • Evaluate your search results

Three Literature Search Methods

All of these approaches are useful in literature searches. Often you will use all three approaches for the same search topic.

Successive Fractions

Use this strategy in preliminary searches, or when you're less familiar with a topic. With this strategy you can look at different facets or aspects of your topic.

  1. Search for a topic, being as specific as you can
  2. Narrow the results by adding a sequence of concepts and/or filters (publication type, language, etc.)

Building Blocks

Use this strategy for well-defined (clear and focused) search questions. Plan on repeating your search with modifications so you can find more literature.

  1. Identify distinct concepts in your search
  2. Search for each concept, using multiple terms
  3. Combine the concepts

Use this worksheet (.xlsx file) as a planner.

"Pearl Growing" or Citation Searching

Citation searching is another method to find articles on a topic. When you use this approach, it's important to think about alternative versions of names and citations.

  1. Select an article that is highly relevant to your topic. Use a "classic" article, or a "good article" from previous search results.
  2. Find newer items that cite the article. They are probably about the same topic.