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Searching for your literature review: Where to search

Where to search

Where you search will be informed by:

What you are trying to find out? The parameters of your research question and what types of studies can best answer it
What is your time frame? How much time you have will determine how comprehensively you search

You may need to search for both published literature and unpublished (grey) literature.

  Watch this video to understand key places to search:

Types of resources

Type of resource What it is
Primary

First hand accounts.

Examples: original research articles that give results of a study by the researcher, letters, interviews, personal journals, laboratory logs, statistics, survey results, raw data, legislation and case law.

Start with: Library databases, data repositories, archives and Trove from the National Library of Australia.

Secondary

Second hand accounts of information which provide background information or summarise, interpret and explain results of original research .

Examples: books, Hansard, parliamentary papers, review articles and theses.

Start with: Library databases, Library catalogue and Government websites

Tertiary

Compiles and summarises information from primary and secondary sources to introduce the current state of a topic. Some tertiary sources are also considered secondary sources and vice versa.

Examples: encyclopedias, almanacs, path finders, systematic reviews, case studies and bibliographies.

Start with: Library catalogue

Find published literature

Databases are organised collections of published and grey literature. They can include publications such as journal articles, book chapters, reports and conference papers, and consist of full text publications, bibliographic records only or a mixture of both.

Databases can be discipline specific, such as medical, art, engineering or business databases, or multidisciplinary, covers all subject areas.

Key multidisciplinary databases

Below are two largest citation databases that may be useful places to search.

Find grey literature

"Grey literature is recognized as a key source of evidence, argument, innovation, and understanding in many disciplines including science, engineering, health, social sciences, education, the arts and humanities" — Pisa declaration on policy development for grey literature resources

In summary, it:

  • Introduces alternative perspectives
  • May be the only source of information (where there is little published evidence)
  • Overcomes or minimises publication/reporting bias
  • Can be essential in emerging, changing or interdisciplinary research areas
  • Complements published research and fills in research gaps

For approaches use the:

Find research methods

More help

Explore more possible places to search using these guides.