How to Choose Titles for Literature Reviews

At some point in your academic career, you may have to write a literature review to summarize what you've learned in your field. Writing a strong literature review takes a lot of time, research and focus, as there are many different components that go into it. However, if this is an assignment you need to do for one of your classes, all you need to do is follow a few steps to choose the right titles, and you'll have a great literature review in no time.

What Is a Literature Review?

A literature review is an essay that discusses published works in a specific subject area. It's something that many masters students may need to do for a dissertation, thesis or just a hefty assignment for a course. It's not simply a review of one piece of literature, but a well-thought-out evaluation of several pieces of literature that fall under the same topic or genre. It could be a concise summary of the works, or it can really describe the pieces in depth, usually by creating a synthesis combined with several interpretations.

Brainstorm, Research, Decide Your Topic

Before you begin writing your literature review, you will need to do some brainstorming and research. Most students generally have an idea of what their topic needs to be, but perhaps they're not sure what kind of literature pieces they should be looking for. First, check what your assignment calls for. Does it say how many sources are required, or are you able to choose? This should then give you an idea of how long your literature review will be, and how much time you need to spend searching.

Then, think of a few potential topics for your literature review, then conduct a preliminary search. Based on your results of that quick search, eliminate the topics which don't seem to have as many pieces of literature available for them. Finally, decide on your specific topic and stick to it.

Narrow Down the Kinds of Publications You Will Use

Next, you will need to decide what kind of literature you're going to look for before you search and choose the titles. Narrowing down your research to either just books, just trade journals, just websites, just articles, just peer review publications or a combination of several of these is a strategy many students use. This can help you reach the next step of actually deciding on titles that much quicker. This way, you know where you need to conduct your search, so you don't waste time looking in the wrong places.

Go to the Library or Search Online

The final step in choosing titles for your literature review is to go to the source. Most of the time, students won't know which literature pieces they want to use, mainly because they don't yet know all the publications that have been written on their specific topic. Unless you're doing a literature review of a book series you've read countless times already.

Exploring the library or finding abstracts online of articles you can purchase from journals is the best place to start. Type in the keywords of your topic with the term "article" or "publication" next to it and begin your search. Select as many titles as you see fit, including some you may have found in your preliminary search. If you're having trouble, utilize experts in the field. Perhaps you can ask your professor or a librarian to point you in the right direction. Once you have a few good solid titles that you've already skimmed, decide on which ones you will use to write your literature review.

Tips for Choosing Titles for Your Literature Review

Trying to find titles for a literature review may be a bit overwhelming, as there are likely many titles you could use to support your topic. Therefore, once you begin searching, give yourself a time limit, and only allow yourself to search within that time. Otherwise, you may end up sleeping in the library! Additionally, as you're conducting your search for titles, you may find that someone has already published a literature review on a very similar topic to your own. Don't let this frustrate you and don't start over. Just keep going with it.