Literature searching allows a researcher to dig into the body of written works on a particular topic using a variety of tools. Most formal literature searches in the academic context are performed in library databases.
Literature searching might seem intimidating because of the sheer amount of information available, but everyone can conduct a literature search by following these steps. Learn more about each step by browsing this guide: Developing a Research Question, Translating a Research Question, Performing a Search, and Organizing Citations.
Literature searching is time intensive and takes practice. However, it is well worth the effort to learn. Here are a few benefits to performing a literature search:
Background Information - A literature search allows researchers to familiarize themselves with the scope of the research on a particular topic. It can also help a researcher recognize where they fall into the body of work. Are there any gaps in the research that your expertise could fill? Have any of your interests already been explored?
Find Major Players and Key Concepts - As you get to know your topic, you'll begin to notice recurring authors, concepts, and terminology to build upon.
Credibility - Showing that you have done your homework on a topic is necessary for the success of any project. This is especially true in instances where funding is involved, experiments are being conducted, and interventions are being evaluated. If you want to make a big change in your work or organization, literature searching can provide insight into effectiveness before money, time, and resources are spent.