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Forestry 604: Literature Search Basics

It's important to do a thorough literature search.


1. Capturing all relevant, published research will result in a more informative and useful paper (which also means it'll be more highly-cited).

2. It is particularly important to capture all relevant articles for special types of reviews like systematic reviews and meta-analyses. (Learn more about these types of reviews.) 

3. It helps prevent embarrassment and shame.

The literature search process:

1. Choose appropriate databases.

2. Choose the fewest and most essential keywords that represent your topic. (What are the fewest most essential keywords in this topic: How effective are Arizona's highway underpasses at helping elk cross highways safely?)

3. Find synonyms for those keywords.

4. Run your search and react to it. Then, revise and tweak it in various ways -- for example, set a publication year scope, limit to certain document types, add or subtract keywords, limit some keywords to certain fields, etc.

5. Finalize your search and document your search methods, if required.

6. Set up a system for sorting results into categories on a Likert scale such as:

OMG this is so relevant! | This looks fairly relevant | This might be relevant, hard to say. | This is about brown adipose tissue not about bats.


TOPIC: What do we already know or still need to learn about the effects of light pollution on bats?

1. Databases: Web of Science, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, Zoological Record, GreenFILE, Agricultural and Environmental Science Collection.

2. Fewest, most essential keywords? light pollution AND bats

3. Synonyms?

light pollution bat
photo pollution bats
artificial light chiropt*
artificial lighting
road lighting
road lights
street lighting
street lights

Now YOU try!

Topic? Is habitat selection behavior altered when wildlife are subjected to artificial noise?


Fewest, most essential keywords?


Try another!

Topic: What are the different effects climate change will have on animals that hibernate?

Fewest, most essential keywords?