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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

Literature Reviews: Using Library Resources in Writing

General resources about doing literature reviews

To find books about doing/writing literature reviews, try a search in the library catalog. See also the resources in the page about "Writing Literature Reviews" in this guide. 

Below are examples of library guides about doing literature reviews.

Process and Tips

The boxes below this one address these steps for doing a literature review.

  • create a consolidated spreadsheet to record and track the tasks, resources, search statements, and  background information sources, and email alerts for new literate, all associated with your literature review
  • identify background information sources that can help you focus your search, plus explain terminology you encounter along the way
  • identify relevant bibliographic databases and learn how to make full use of their search capabilities
  • search for literature that discloses specific research findings, but also search various types of review literature (see the sub-page "Searching for Review Literature" below)
  • use citation management software 
  • develop strategies for sifting through articles quickly, selecting only those that merit a deeper reading.

Create a "Literature Review Central"

Before embarking on your literature review, you may want to create an Excel spreadsheet or Word to create a sort of "Literature Review Central".

Create a worksheet within the spreadsheet to keep a record of the search statements you used in searching bibliographic databases. This way you will avoid redoing the same searches. You can also create worksheets to record: tasks; background information sources;  reading done to be done; items to obtain full-text; email alerts for new literature that you set up (see section of this guide about monitoring the literature).

Keeping a record of searches completed can be helpful so you don’t redo the search or if you want to rerun or tweak them later.


  • Instead of Excel, you may prefer Word; see online tutorial in this guide about how to use Word headers
  • As your research and writing expands beyond the literature review, you can expand the spreadsheet so that it becomes a spreadsheet to organize the mechanics and logistics for the entire writing project if it ranges beyond writing a literature review.

Sample of spreadsheet structure

Background information sources

Before you start your literature search, find background information sources such as:  encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, books and ebooks, open web resources (used judiciously), scholarly review articles, and even popular articles in magazines, newspapers, and society member publications.

This creates a mental map for focused searching using bibliographic databases. These sources can you understand technical jargon.

See library guides and talk to your subject librarian for assistance in identifying background information resources.

BIbliographic databases

Lehigh's library guides to help identify relevant bibliographic databases on the library database list. These databases enable you to find journal articles, books, dissertations, technical reports, preprints, and other literature relating to your topic.


  • To do focused and structured searching of a database: request an overview by a librarian; read the database's documentation; or view online tutorials.
  • As part of your search, look for literature reviews. These contain  bibliography and provide models for your own writing of a review. (See the page "Search for Review Literature" below.)
  • Consider recording searches as you do them so that you don't retrace searches. You can use the "Literature Review Central" idea mentioned earlier to maintain these records. When you done searching a bibliographic database, click search history and copy the history into your spreadsheet. Another option, if the databases you use allow it, is to save search histories so you can come back to them. 

Use a citation management software

Consider using a citation management software. Lehigh supports RefWorks. Other softwares of this type are available, for example Zotero.

What is RefWorks?    

RefWorks is a research management tool designed to help users store, organize, annotate, and share information sources by centrally managing all the resources you interact with over the course of a research project. Working on a dissertation, thesis, or long-term study? RefWorks can help you streamline your research process by creating a personal library of your resources, storing the full text of articles, and generating citations and bibliographies [from the first guide below].

Tips relating to use of RefWorks in Literature Reviews  

  • only put items into RefWorks that are definitely items you may use; otherwise, you will find yourselves having to delete lots of items
  • put RefWorks records into subject folders, plus use the projects folder if you are working on distinct projects
  • if you want to create print copies of articles, you can put them into numbered file folders and then cross-reference the folders in the RefWorks records. Then you can search RefWorks to find the corresponding print folder
  • you can also upload electronic copies of papers to RefWorks
  • Lehigh Links are available out of RefWorks so that you can access full text or order an item via ILLiad.
  • try out  the pdf annotation tools. 

Library guides about RefWorks  

Reading the literature to do a preliminary evaluation

As a matter of time management, first read those sections of a scholarly paper sufficient to tell you whether a deeper reading of the article is worth your time. If so, put the paper into a citation management software. If not, move on.

Resources about how to read journal papers follow.  


Sciences & Engineering  

Social Sciences