1. Choose a topic.
2. Decide on a search strategy to find the information you need. (This guide will help you do that.)
3. Formulate a question about your topic that your research will try to answer. (It's easier to sort through resources if you're looking for stuff that will help you answer a question.)
4. Evaluate the information you've found.
5. Revise your research question based on your new knowledge.
6. Write the paper! (Remember to cite your sources correctly!)
For the sake of practice, let's say you want to write your literature review on the following topic:
the psychology of music performance
When searching for sources, it’s important to use keywords. Keywords are significant or descriptive words that convey your topic in as few words as possible. To search effectively, you also need to think of synonyms for your keywords, because different writers may use different words for the same idea, especially writers from different disciplines.
The keywords in the example topic would be psychology, music, and performance.
Possible synonyms for psychology: creativity, mindset, attitude, therapy, personality, behavior
Possible synonyms for music: melody, song, classical, jazz, hip-hop, rap, hard rock, heavy metal, instrumental, singing
Possible synonyms for performance: practice, improvisation, performer, orchestra, band, concert, expressiveness, recital, rehearsal
After you've identified keywords and synonyms for your own topic, use the Search Strategy Builder below to generate a search string you can use in library databases and Google. Remember to put phrases in quotes! (e.g. "hard rock")
The Search Strategy Builder is a tool designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic. While it is not a database and is not designed to input a search, you should be able to cut and paste the results into most databases’ search boxes.