The Library

Media & Communication

Finding resources to search

Discover is an excellent starting point when conducting a literature review as it searches through the vast majority of our electronic resources. However, it is also a good idea to search relevant individual databases for a more subject-specific perspective.

When you find a relevant article, you should then follow the trails from it to other useful information:

  • Follow up relevant-looking references.
  • Look up what else the author has written.
  • Look at what else that journal has published.
  • Find the article on Scopus or Google Scholar, and see who has cited it in their subsequent research.
  • You may also wish to look at theses, dissertations and projects from other academic institutions.

Remember that searching is not a linear process. The more reading that you do, the more additional keywords, authors, topics and questions you are likely to encounter with which you can expand or refine your original list of search terms. This is a positive sign, as it shows you are expanding your knowledge of your subject and it is a key part of the process of conducting a comprehensive literature review.

Finding books at other libraries

If you would like to read a book that we don't have here at Leeds Beckett, you could try one of the following options:

1. If you are a final year undergraduate, postgraduate student, researcher or member of staff you could apply for an interlibrary loan. You can make your request online on MyBeckett (go to the Library tab and find the 'Interlibrary Loan Request Service' box). Most books will arrive for you to collect from the Library within 20 working days.

2. Search on COPAC to see if there is another university library that has the book. COPAC enables you to search over 100 UK and Irish library catalogues to help you identify resources held elsewhere.

3. Apply for SCONUL Access to borrow the book from another UK or Irish university library (full-time undergraduate students can't borrow, but can still have reference access). Apply online and register with your Leeds Beckett email address. You should contact the library you wish to visit beforehand to check opening hours, access policies, accessibility and any documentation you may need to take with you.

4. You could visit the British Library Reading Room at the Document Supply Centre, Boston Spa, near Leeds. You can't borrow from this library, but you can consult millions of items. You can pre-register for a Reading Room pass and order your material online before visiting on the Library's website.

5. You could search the Leeds Public Library Catalogue to see if they have the book you are looking for. You can also make reservations online and join if you're not already a member.

Beckett Books Extra

This service allows you to recommend resource purchases for addition to our Library stock. This could be particularly useful to you if you are currently working on your dissertation and require books on a subject area we don't have in stock. To suggest a title, please click on Recommend below and fill in the online form with as much information as you can:

To find out more information on Beckett Books Extra, see the guide here.

Help with your dissertation

You can book an appointment with your Academic Librarians (details on the left) who can help you find resources including journal articles, statistics and more. 

Use the Skills for Learning website for step by step guidance on how to plan and manage your workload, and how to structure your dissertation.

Search the Library Catalogue for books on writing your dissertation, for example:

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a review of the existing literature, journal articles, books and evidence published on a given topic. It is a critical and evaluative account of any published work around your research field, including a description and analysis of existing knowledge of the topic, the identification of any gaps in the existing body of knowledge, and an explanation of how your research might contribute to and further develop current understanding of the subject.

A literature review is not simply a description or summary of each individual paper. It should instead be organised around the findings of the articles considered, and is therefore an opportunity to identify common themes and issues as well as highlighting opposing arguments.

Choosing a topic

Before deciding upon a topic, it is a good idea to conduct a 'scoping' or formative search in Discover, just to make sure that there is enough relevant material for you to consider, read and analyse.

Also, remember that conducting a literature review is your opportunity to find out more about a topic that interests you. If you cannot think of a topic:

  • Read back through past lecture notes to find inspiration.
  • Browse through current journals in your area to see what other researchers are investigating.
  • Look out for news stories which may be relevant to your topic.

Developing a search strategy

Your search strategy is your plan of action for searching. It is important to ensure that your searching is systematic, and does not omit any potentially useful results. To achieve this, you should consider the following points when forming a search strategy and devising a list of terms to search for:

  • Think of synoyms and alternative search terms for your topic keywords - the essential words which describe your topic.
  • Further deconstruct your keywords - are you sure you have thought of all of the possible ways to describe your topic? It may be helpful to use a thesaurus for clues, or discuss your topic with someone else.
  • Look at the keywords listed in relevant articles. How have previous authors described your subject?
  • Where are you going to search for information? These databases may provide you with some ideas.

Then, when conducting searches, remember that:

  • Academic databases such as Discover have Advanced Search tools, which you can use to target your searching more precisely.
  • You can also add 'Boolean operators' to searches (or use these tools as Advanced Search options), adding AND, OR and NOT between search words to refine your results. NOT is particularly helpful, allowing you to eliminate irrelevant results. For example, you might wish to run a search for 'media NOT film'.
  • Truncating allows you to search for various different endings of a word by using an asterisk. For example, 'fem*' will search for female, females, feminine, feminism etc.
  • By enclosing a phrase within quotation marks you can search for keywords grouped together in a certain order - e.g. "mass media".
  • Think too about how to limit your search. Do you want to find only peer-reviewed and scholarly journal articles, or also grey literature? Is your research going to cover a specific time period, such as the last 10 years? Are you applying any geographical limits? Remember that while using Discover, you can use the filters on the left hand side of the results screen (under 'Refine results') to apply any of these limits. Use the help function in other databases to find out how to limit your search in them.

Finally, record the databases you have searched, the search terms you have used and any limits applied - you will need this information to ensure that your searching is systematic and methodical, and then also for writing up your methodology!

Video: How to read a scholarly article

A Reference Librarian at Kishwaukee College Library has produced this helpful video on how to read a scholarly article:

Evaluating web pages and research

Remember, a crucial stage of any research is evaluating the quality. If you are evaluating free resources you can use the REVIEW method:

  • Relevant: is the content relevant to your research?
  • Expertise of author: is there any information about who the author is, are they well known in their field, are they cited by others?
  • Viewpoint: is the information subjective or objective, is there a strong bias?
  • Intended audience: is it aimed at an academic audience, designed to inform or entertain?
  • Evidence: do they back up their claims with evidence, references and bibliography?
  • When published: is there more current information available, new evidence, new arguments to bring it right up to date?

Collections of dissertations and theses

  • Ethos (Electronic Theses Online Service)
    Ethos aims to offer a 'single point of access' where researchers the world over can access ALL theses produced by UK Higher Education. You can search the Ethos database without having to register, but you will need to register to download or order a thesis.
  • OpenThesis
    OpenThesis is a free repository of theses, dissertations and other academic documents, coupled with powerful search, organisation, and collaboration tools.
  • PDQT Open
    PDQT Open provides the full text of open access dissertations and theses free of charge.  The authors have opted to publish as open access and make their research available for free.  Please note the content is mostly North American
  • Dart
    The DART-Europe portal offers free access to full text European doctoral theses.  The portal gives you access to over 360,000 open access research theses from over 500 universities in 27 European countries.

Structuring your literature review

You should consult your Tutor or module handbook regarding exactly how to organise your literature review. However, a literature review would normally have the following basic structure:

Introduction. This is where you introduce your research topic: what it is, why it is important and how it fills any gaps in the available knowledge. The introduction should outline any main themes or chronological developments and also outline the organisational structure of the review.

Body. This is where you discuss the sources and articles used, as well as any controversies and points of debate. The body of your review can be arranged chronologically if you want to illustrate how arguments and views have changed over a given time period, or it can be arranged thematically by themes and subtopics. Another way in which your review can be organised is by theoretical arguments e.g. positivist, anti-positivst, and sociocultural evolutionists, or rational choice theory vs social learning theory.

Conclusion. This is where you summarise what you have learnt from your literature review and highlight any suggested areas for further research.

Writing up

Here are some suggestions to help with writing your literature review:

  • Allow plenty of time to both research and write your literature review.
  • Also ensure to allow plenty of words to let your work develop, and for your review to follow various arguments and counter-arguments.
  • Be selective about the literature you include - try to select papers with varying viewpoints, to ensure that you have plenty to discuss.
  • As this is your literature review, don't forget to include your own voice - but use the evidence to support your arguments.
  • Use quotes sparingly and paraphrase wherever possible.
  • If necessary, you can book an appointment with your Academic Librarians (contact details above) who can offer advice on how to find relevant resources including journal articles, statistics and more.