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Literature Reviews in STEM

Step 5. Appraise Your Results

What do you think about your results? Are you seeing the type of information you were hoping for? Are there too many results to look through? Too few? By looking at your results, you get instant, empirical feedback on whether the keywords you chose to describe your concepts are used that way in research.** 

Harvesting terms in my example, search yielded almost 1,400 more articles to look through! And each article will have its own set of subjects to continue guiding me forward.


**Note that just because a keyword is not producing results does not mean it is a wrong word. It may just mean that in the context of this particular research database, your concept is described in a different way.


How do you know when you’re done?

While we know research is never truly “done” for the purposes of locating articles for an initial literature review, you can feel confident that your search has produced relevant results from this database once you start to see the same subject terms coming up again and again, or once you stop seeing new subject terms that accurately describe what you are looking for.


Where do you go from here?

The process described in this lesson ideally produces results, but the research process may vary for each database, project, and researcher engaging in it. If you weren’t able to find what you are looking for, you are encouraged to set up a consultation with a research librarian who can walk you through more advanced and/or specialized approaches to locating material in these databases.

Depending on your project, you may consider repeating your search in another database (either more specialized or more general).

When you feel it’s time to move to reading and writing — the next stage — check out the Center for Writing and Learning's Guide for Writing Literature Reviews. The next page in this guide also includes some of the same pointers!

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