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Literature Review - Finding the Resources

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

Reading at the university

Reading is an essential part of learning at the university. However, students may find it difficult because they may feel overwhelmed by the amount of readings required or by the complex concepts and unfamilar terms found in academic books and articles. With appropriate methods and strategies, you will find academic reading more managable.

Reading on a research topic

What to read?

If you are reading for your literature review on a research topic, you will need to read widely. Depending on your research topic, you will need to read books that cover an overview of a topic or summary of research, research articles that contain current original research findings, theses that document in detail academic research process and results, or more. Use the CityU LibraryFind to identify your needed books and journal titles. Use the article databases to find articles relevant to your research topic.

How to read?

Some academic concepts and terms may be difficult to understand. Yet understanding is not enough to read for your literature review. You also need to read critically. To grasp the main ideas of an academic work, taking notes is also a must. Below are some techniques to help you read more effectively.

Handling difficult concepts or unfamilar terms

Your familiarity with your reading topic can determine how you read for your literature review.

If you find the concepts or terms in an academic work too difficult to understand, see if there are any graphs or diagrams in the article that can help you get a clearer picture.

If not, you may need to find another reading which describes the concepts in a more straightforward way before coming back to the more difficult ones.

You may also need to use subject specific dictionaries or glossaries to help you interpret unfamiliar terms.

Reading critically

To read for your literature review, it is not enough just to understand. You are also expected to think, analyze and read with a critical mind. Identify the arguments made by the author, and ask questions while you read. For example:

  • When was the article written?
  • Who wrote the article?
  • How important is the reading?
  • How relevant is the reading to your assignment?
  • Are the ideas logical?
  • Are the ideas still relevant?
  • Is the work biased? 
  • How valid are the conclusions?

Taking notes

Taking notes while reading will help you "uncover the content" (Fairbarin & Fairbairn, 2001) by focusing your attention on:

  • the author's main ideas & arguments
  • your views on the author's ideas
  • the relevance of the reading to the questions in your assignment

Note-taking not only helps you make meaning of what you read, it is also a must to protect the academic integrity of your assignment. With careful note-taking, you can avoid plagiarism by ensuring proper acknowledgement when using someone else's ideas in your assignment (read the tips below to learn more about taking notes).

To learn more about preventing plagiarism, refer to the "Plagiarism" page of our Research Guide.

ReferencesFairbairn, G., & Fairbarin, S. (2001). Reading at University: A guide for students. Buckingham [England]: Open University Press Open University (n.d.). Open University (n.d.). Critical reading techniques: How to take notes. Retrieved July 12, 2022, from  

Tips about taking notes

1. Record all details about the source of each reading to ensure proper acknowledgement in your literature review. These include title (title of journal, book and article), author's full name, publisher's name, year and place of publication and page numbers.

2. Distinguish carefully between your own ideas and those you have gathered from your reading to avoid copying others' ideas without acknowledgement.

3. Use quotation marks for direct quotes (i.e. author's exact words) so that you will also do so when using these notes in your literature review to avoid plagiarism.