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Subject guides

Dissertation Survival Guide: Step Two: Lit Review

Guidance on how to complete your Dissertation/Final Year Project and make the most of Library and IT Services and Resources

Start your literature review by searching Summon

So you’ve got your research questions sorted? Great. Now you need to think about finding existing research on this topic. This is what your literature review will cover. This may also be referred to as "background research". 

But WHERE should you search? The Library buys millions of journal articles, books, newspapers and more, and makes them available through Summon. On this page, you will find guidance on search tools you can use, and how to evaluate and think critically about the literature you are reviewing.

What is a literature review?

Not sure what is meant by a literature review? This video will talk you through what a literature review is and what it should usually include.

What should I include?

You may have been told you need to include more scholarly or academic sources in your work. But what does this mean? This video will outline the most common types of academic information and what they may be useful for.

Where should I look?

The best place to start your searching is Summon, the Library's search engine. The video below is a guide to the main features of Summon and how to get the most out of it.

After searching Summon, you may want to try looking for some more specialist materials for your own subject area. To get started, check your Library Subject Guide. These are guides to the specialist resources that are most useful for the subject you are studying.

As well as searching Summon and other specialist, scholarly databases, you may wish to look for information on the web. Searching for quality information on the web can be tricky. The video below gives some advice on how to approach this in a targeted way.

Evaluating your sources

When writing a literature review, it's important to think critically about the sources you are using. In writing your literature review, you are expect to have selected quality, reliable sources to support yuor arguments.

There are several techniques you can use to evaluate sources before you include them in your literature review. See details below of two techniques you may wish to use: the CRAAP test, or lateral reading.

You may wish to use the worksheet below to evaluate your sources as you read.

The CRAAP Test

The CRAAP test is a checklist you can use to help decide whether the source you are looking at is appropriate to use.

CRAAP stands for:

  • Currency: How up-to-date is the information?
  • Reliability/ Relevance: How suitable is the information for your needs?
  • Authority: Who/ what is the source of the information?
  • Accuracy: Is the information truthful and factual?
  • Purpose: Why was this information created in the first place?

For more detail on these points, see the video below, or download the flyer with further details.

Lateral Reading

Another evaluation technique you can use is known as "lateral reading". This is a technique used by professional fact-checkers to verify information posted online. 

Lateral reading is a useful technique to use for non-scholarly information, such as free websites, think-tank white papers and reports, and multimedia content such as videos or podcasts.

De Montfort University have created an online tutorial on using lateral reading to evaluate sources. The video below also gives an introduction to the technique and how to apply it.

Managing your references

When you’ve decided something could be useful, make sure you keep track of all the details so you can reference it properly in the literature review. For more advice on referencing, consult the University referencing guide, or see the videos below.

Why not reference management software to keep a record of your items? Reference management software gives you a place to store and organise the items you have read, and can generate references automatically for you.

At the University of Huddersfield, we subscribe to two different types of reference management software: RefWorks (web-based software) and EndNote (desktop software). Have a look at the guides to both to see which you think would be most helpful to you.