Tips for Literature Search

Literature search is important because you need to connect your own work to that of others, and you should not waste time by solving problems that already have been solved. You can also replace the word “literature” with the term “knowledge”: You are searching for existing knowledge, so that you can build on it and add new knowledge.


The process for literature search works as follows:

  1. Start searching for papers by keywords
  2. Filter by title and abstract
  3. Browse through selected papers
  4. Read selected papers thoroughly
  5. Update your search terms or sources for searching
The process of literature research.  

The figure above shows the process how to search through literature. The process it iterative, because you learn more both about your problem and the work that has already been done while you find results.

Update search keywords: You learn which keywords to search for, i.e., that a specific concept already has a specific name in literature. Then you update your list of keywords and search again.

Modify your problem: When browsing through papers or reading them thoroughly, you may find that you need to change your problem description, which effectively leads to updated keywords.

Filtering is important: There is only a limited number of papers you are able to read. Be therefore selective with which papers you continue or which ones you read through in detail. However, don’t ignore papers either. It is important that you end up with a good overview over the most relevant papers.

 Find more papers: There are many ways in which one paper leads you to discovering other papers:

Search Engines and Online Libraries

When you access the papers from the campus network, you will be automatically recognized as a user and can download PDFs of the articles.

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