Skip to main content

Literature Review - Finding the Resources

This guide assists you in finding the resources for your literature review

Evaluating your sources

Before deciding whether or not to incorporate what you have found into your literature review, you need to evaluate the resources to make sure that they contain information which is valuable and pertinent. This is especially true when the resources you retrieved are not collected by an academic library, but conveniently accessible through Internet search. Web resources need more careful thought to ensure their quality. Thus it is always a good practice to begin your search using CityU LibraryFind and databases for more authoritative and reliable resources.

Evaluation Criteria

Accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency and coverage are the five basic criteria for evaluating information from any sources.

  Questions to ask:
Accuracy
  • Is the information reliable?
  • Is the information error-free?
  • Is the information based on proven facts?
  • Can the information be verified against other reliable sources?
Authority
  • Who is the author?
  • Does he or she have the qualifications to speak/write on that topic?
  • Is the author affiliated with a reputable university or organization in this subject field?
Objectivity
  • What is the intended purpose of the information?
  • Is the information facts or opinions?
  • Is the information biased?
Currency
  • When was the information published?
  • Is the information current or out-dated?
  • Does currency matter in this topic?
Coverage
  • Does the information covered meet your information needs?
  • Does it provide basic or in depth coverage?

Scholarly journals vs. non-scholarly journals

It has been mentioned on "The Literature" page of this guide that a literature review generally consists of scholarly works. In addition to dissertations and theses, scholarly journal articles are another important sources to be incorporated in a literature review.

Many Library databases contain articles of various types of periodicals, including scholarly journals, magazines and newspapers. Most of these databases allow you to further limit your search results to "Scholarly Articles" so that you can view only academic research articles that in general report current original research.

e.g.

    

    

The document below assists you in distinguishing scholarly journals from non-scholarly journals:

Evaluate websites

Bearing in mind that the Web is a vast network of unfiltered information sources, (i.e., anyone can put anything on it, bypassing editorial or peer review). It is of utmost importance that we evaluate information on the Web before it is used and cited.

Here are some quick hints that can help you decide whether the information given in a particular web page is reliable or not:

  • Look for information about the author, e.g., links that say "Who we are", "About this site", etc.
     
  • See if the author/web master provides e-mail address or other contact information so that he or she can be contacted for enquiries or further information.
     
  • Look for hints on authority in the URL (Internet address):
     
    • Top-level domain tells you what type of institution the information comes from
      • .com -- a commercial site (may be trying to sell a product)
      • .edu -- an educational institution (usually reliable but may not if it is a personal web page of a member of the institution)
      • .gov -- a government department or agent
      • .net -- network access provider
      • .org -- a non-profit organization (may or may not be biased)
         
    • a "~" in the URL usually indicates it is a personal web page
      e.g., http://personal.univ.edu/~smith/abc.htm
      The quality of information can vary greatly among personal web pages.

Links

For more about evaluating information, visit the following sites:

Evaluating Sources for Credibility, from North Carolina State University Libraries.

Critically Analyzing Information Sources, from Research & Learning Serivces, Olin Library, Cornell University Library.

Evaluating Webpages, Techiques to Apply and Questions to Ask, from University of California, Berkeley.

Critical reading

Your literature review should be critical rather than simply descriptive. You should therefore take a critical approach when reading your sources. Refer to the "Academic Reading" page of this guide to learn more about reading skills.