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Workshops and Classes: Preparing for your literature review in the Social Sciences

Preparing for your literature review in the social sciences

Watch the videos below for tips on creating an effective search strategy for your literature review and how to apply that search strategy to a range of library resources. These videos are adapted from the face-to-face workshop Preparing for your literature review in the Social Sciences. The videos concentrate on examples in the social sciences but the method can also apply to other divisions.

You will also find transcripts and Powerpoint presentations with notes as an alternative to the videos.

Topics covered include:

  • Google Scholar
  • Developing a search strategy
  • Tricks for searching databases
  • Searching databases: how and why
  • Using the thesaurus

We would welcome feedback on this series of videos: https://oxford.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/preparing-for-your-literature-review-in-the-social-science

The video creator is Kat Steiner.

Using Google Scholar to search Oxford's ejournals

If you are used to using Google Scholar, you can make it work harder for you by adding a Find it @ Oxford button - this will search SOLO for our subscriptions and give you direct access to paywalled journal articles.

You can also read a transcript of the video or follow instructions in Powerpoint.

What are you going to search for?

This involves breaking your question into concepts, thinking about the relevant importance of each one, coming up with synonyms, related concepts, broader and narrower terms, alternate spellings, that sort of thing. It feels like unnecessary work but it will save you time (and missing important content) in the long run.

You can also read a transcript of the video or follow instructions in Powerpoint.

 

Once you have you have developed your search strategy, you will want to apply some handy searching tricks like *, ?, and "" - if you haven't heard about these, watch the video below to find out more.

You can also read a transcript of the video or follow instructions in Powerpoint.

How are you going to search for it?

How does each website work? Is there an advanced search you can use for the words you came up with when developing your search strategy? Can you filter by useful things like date or language? Do articles come with keywords, tags, or a thesaurus of useful terms?

You can also read a transcript of the video or follow instructions in Powerpoint.

Other tips and tricks

Some databases have a thesaurus and a set of keywords for each article - this can be manually done by experts or via machine learning like Semantic Scholar. These are great if you've missed an important synonym or bit of jargon from the field. You're unlikely to find a perfect thesaurus term for each of your concepts, but you can use a combination of your own terms and those from a thesaurus to good effect.

Web of Science does lots of fancy work on citations - you can see who has cited a paper later. Google Scholar also does this for free so it's useful to check that out if you think you've found a seminal paper. To trace citations backwards, look at the list of references as you're reading and try and find them.

You can also read a transcript of the video or follow instructions in Powerpoint.