How to do effective literature searches

Professor Alejandro Marangoni, University of Guelph, describes literature reviews as 'the most critical element in carrying out novel research'. He told us 'It is really incredible how the quality of your work will increase if you really find out what other people have done in the area before. I just went through one of these experiences when analyzing data. I found an obscure paper that transformed my ability to analyze and interpret my experimental results. The work is now in the stratosphere of quality and innovation. This was only possible by finding both the key and fringe older literature on the topic. What Google gives you is sometimes not complete.'

Our guide and e-learning module are designed to help you understand and undertake effective searching for literature reviews

An effective literature review is always built on the foundation of a high quality literature search, one that is comprehensive and systematic. And for any new project, a literature search is a crucial early step in the research process.

Finding some literature on a question is usually easy; finding the right literature, and all of the most relevant literature for a solid literature review, is harder.

Through explanatory notes and practical, step-by-step guidance, we aim to help you understand how to effectively plan and carry out your literature searches. The guide is available to read on LibGuides in English, Chinese, Farsi, Italian, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese language (more translations to come!).

For librarians and faculty teaching information literacy skills, we also offer a free SCORM package for an online e-learning module which can be added to your own learning management system (LMS).

For those working in the corporate sector, we also provide a guide specifically designed for industry researchers. This is available to read on Libguides, or as a PDF to download and keep.

Feedback from the community

Your Guide is simply superb.  Many thanks for a great resource which I will be promoting with advanced stage degree students in food science agriculture and veterinary medicine here in UCD.  It is the best guide I have come across in some time so many thanks for this "Toolkit".  This will be invaluable for UCD -Students, those new to research, and those who need a refresher in literature searching. 

Carmel Norris, College Liaison Librarian, School of Agriculture & Food Science, University College Dublin


I found helpful information in the literature search guide which helped me to find many food science articles relevant to me honours project.

Asgiri Jayasekara, Student, University of Adelaide

You can also download the guide as a PDF:

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Student on laptop taking notes

Read it on LibGuides

The full best practice guide is available to read online including downloadable templates.

We would love you to share it with your community. Librarians can copy it to their own subject LibGuides. 


Student on laptop

E-learning SCORM package

This interactive course is built around key research skills and includes short self-assessment quizzes.

For librarians and faculty teaching information literacy skills, this resource is designed to be added to your LMS.