How to find literature sources to review for a paper?

By Chaitanya Shinkhede & Priya Chetty on March 31, 2022

A literature review comprises a critical analysis and study of existing and relevant literature sources conducted by other researchers. The prominent aim of a literature review is to find a research gap. The research gap can be defined as a new idea or concept which has not been studied that can be from another domain. On the other hand, the research process is about finding discoveries through scientific investigation.

For this purpose, it is essential to review existing literature to avoid studying topics that have already been extensively studied in the past. It is also significant to develop a thorough understanding of a problem. Such understanding introduces the researcher to the discourse and context of the topic. It can further add various potential dimensions to an investigation. By reviewing relevant literature sources, the researcher becomes familiar with the topic and identifies a novel research problem.

Choosing relevant literature sources based on their type of data

There can be abundant literature sources on a problem statement, but to make the investigation relevant among fellow researchers a study should focus on reviewing scholarly works. After choosing a source to review categorize the information according to its data type.

For instance, statistical data, survey reports, and annual research reports can be attained from websites, research centres, and commercial and government enterprises. However, theoretical and conceptual frameworks, definitions and meanings should be cited from books as manuscripts that contain elaborative information and critical discussions.

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On the other hand, research papers, conference proceedings and journal articles often contain strategies, methods, and processes. Therefore every literature source has different uses and strengths. The researcher should lay down certain principles to select a source. These principles can include university or publisher guidelines to include a certain type of source for literature review.

Different types of literature sources to review
Figure 1: Different types of literature sources to review

Choosing relevant online literature sources

Often researchers struggle to find adequate sources to review. This is because many timers the sources can be inaccessible due to a paywall or registration. Nevertheless, the researcher can still build a comprehensive review from sources that are free to access.

Research papers and articles on a topic can be searched on Google Scholar, Research Gate, SSRN and Academia. These websites are a global network of research where many researchers share their studies with free access. These websites are not only useful for citation and counting h-index but also help to filter junk information.

Databases such as Scopus, Web of Science, Proquest, IEEE Xplore and JSTOR, are extremely helpful to search relevant literature sources. In addition to this, the open libraries of prestigious universities can also offer research content. To cite Indian thesis and research articles, the online database managed by Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET) Centre is highly recommended. This centre manages Shodhaganga, eShodhsindhu, Indcat, Vidwan, and ICSSR. To look for information on these networks, it is important to identify relevant keywords from your area of study.

Encyclopedias and Wikipedias are often disregarded by the research community due to many reasons. Although they can shed light on briefly understanding a problem, some feel they can not be a reliable source of information for a study. This information is mostly contributed by users who are not extensively working in a specific domain.

Reviewing sources from the bibliography of published works

In some cases, the researcher might find the most suitable research material in a printed book or magazine that might not have an online copy. Following the references in the bibliography of a published work can also lead the researcher to more sources to identify keywords. Many times these references lead a researcher to new online directories and publishers that may have scoping review papers. A scoping review paper is a summary of definitions used in the literature (Munn 2018). It examines the existing literature comprehensively.

The most common mistake in reviewing existing literature is a blind search. A good research design can lead to a critical analysis of existing literature. Often researchers sum up with writing objectives and the conclusion of a published work. In the process, the researcher fails to build a chronology and logical sequence between various sources of information. When the identified literature is classified into appropriate sections, the analogy will offer chronology and sequence to present facts from the literature.


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  2. Topic 0019: writing your literature review. Available at
  3. Munn, Z., Peters, M.D.J., Stern, C. et al. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC Med Res Methodol 18143.
  4. Meeberg GA. (1993). Quality of life: a concept analysis. J Adv Nurs.;18(1):32–8.
  5. Aromataris E, Pearson A. (2014). The systematic review: an overview. AJN The American Journal of Nursing. Vol. 114(3) pp. 53–8.

I am a management graduate with specialisation in Marketing and Finance. I have over 12 years' experience in research and analysis. This includes fundamental and applied research in the domains of management and social sciences. I am well versed with academic research principles. Over the years i have developed a mastery in different types of data analysis on different applications like SPSS, Amos, and NVIVO. My expertise lies in inferring the findings and creating actionable strategies based on them. 

Over the past decade I have also built a profile as a researcher on Project Guru's Knowledge Tank division. I have penned over 200 articles that have earned me 400+ citations so far. My Google Scholar profile can be accessed here

I now consult university faculty through Faculty Development Programs (FDPs) on the latest developments in the field of research. I also guide individual researchers on how they can commercialise their inventions or research findings. Other developments im actively involved in at Project Guru include strengthening the "Publish" division as a bridge between industry and academia by bringing together experienced research persons, learners, and practitioners to collaboratively work on a common goal. 


Post-graduated in Mass Communication and Journalism (2015), instead of working in the media industry, I chose to pursue teaching and research in media and communication studies. I have teaching experience of two years and research experience of six years. Last year, I worked on the ICSSR IMPRESS project as a Research Assistant at PAH Solapur University. It was related to social media and participatory development. I am also pursuing a Ph.D. at TMV, Pune. My research is concerned with the sustainability of rural community radio stations. Apart from these ventures, I conduct research in the development communication, media ecology, film studies, and radio journalism. I have also delivered multiple training programs to NET/SET aspirants and I am part of the board of studies (Solapur University).