Tips for literature research

An important part of the preparation of a scientific work – such as the bachelor thesis or master’s thesis, but also in term papers – is the literature research. This applies, of course, especially for pure literary work, but also for work with an empirical part, which usually builds on the findings of the related literature.

Already, in order to concretize the topic and to create an outline, a first literature search should be carried out. Here, research gaps can be identified and relevant questions for the scientific work filtered out.

If the exact topic and the objective of the work are fixed, a more intensive search should be carried out.

This article explains how to proceed with the literature search.

Procedure in the literature search

First of all, general literature on the topic to be examined should be consulted, later – if the topic is already limited – more specialized. In order to get a general overview of the topic, manuals and textbooks that deal with the relevant subject area are suitable. These can be found in the main and specialized library of your university or college. It can also be particularly useful here to investigate whether your supervising chair has already published articles on your subject area. You should get a comprehensive overview of the topic. If possible, consult with your supervisor to ensure that your research moves in the right direction from the start.

In order to save time, it is often advisable not to read comprehensive works completely, but to concentrate on the relevant chapters and sections. Try to use current literature as possible. Even with classics, it makes sense to use the latest edition. Take notes from the beginning. Even if you think you can remember where you found important information, you will probably lose track of it over time. Therefore, it is important to always document which sources have already been viewed and what the relevant content is. This can be a great relief in the further course of processing.

As soon as the question has been substantiated, you should prepare a first outline draft. Again, it makes sense to coordinate with the supervisor of the work. As a rule, the first classification can change over time, according to your further findings in the search.

Now you should look for specialized literature on your topic. Monographies and essays are suitable here. Most universities also like it when journal articles from trade journals are used.

Databases for research

An important source for your literature search is the online catalog of your university library (OPAC). You can also browse the catalogs of other universities via the Internet. In the meantime, many sources are available online. You can usually see the availability of paper-based works in your university library or other libraries when searching in OPAC. Often you can also obtain works from other libraries via inter-library loan.

You should also access specialized databases and journal databases for specialized research. These too are usually available on the homepage of your university. If you use scientific journals as a source of literature, you should choose high quality journals wherever possible. A guide to the quality of different journals offers in business administration, for example, the rating of the Association of University Professors of Business Administration (VHB-JOURQUAL), which you can find here (external link).

If you prefer to study from home rather than the university library, you should use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) access. This will allow you to access the content that your college provides, even from outside. The corresponding access data can usually be found in the documents for your enrollment at the university. To use the VPN, you must install the appropriate software on your computer. Recommended here is the Cisco AnyConnect VPN Client. You can often download the required software directly from the homepage of your university.

In addition to the offer of your university, you can additionally search the Internet for literature. It should also use search engines specializing in scientific texts, such as Google Scholar and CiteSeer.

If you have questions or need help with the literature search, we are happy to help. Please contact us.

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