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Literature Reviews in STEM

How do you do a literature review?

There is a problem in research. It exists in all fields. All researchers must deal with it, no matter their level. The problem is language. Because we use language when searching for research (articles, books, etc.), our results can be as biased, imperfect, and problematic as language itself!

There are many ways to circumvent this issue. Google, for example, uses algorithms to analyze your language mathematically to understand your query. This is why you may, for example, ask Google a question in a full sentence – it can prioritize certain words over others, thus offering you results that connect to certain words and not others. (If every Google search prioritized the words “how,” “does,” or “the”  as having the same importance as the words “Microgravity,” “diet,” and “international space station,” my results would be pretty skewed.) However, we don’t know exactly how Google breaks down our question, and thus we don’t know what it feeds us, the results it does, and in what order.


This lesson will show you how academics research using scholarly databases and the techniques they use to avoid biases in their own words. Specifically, this guide will introduce you to using Subjects to generate useful results in scholarly databases.


For all examples, I use the mock research question, “How does microgravity impair astronauts' diet on the International Space Station?”

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