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Education: Graduate Students

Books on how to write your Dissertation or Thesis


You can easily input (and format) journal articles, books, websites, and other resources for your paper with RefWorks!

RefWorks is a Web-based bibliography and database manager that helps you collect and organize citations and access them from any computer with a Web connection.

RefWorks will even take your list and generate a bibliography of references, using APA, MLA, or any other format  you select.

When gathering records from other databases, look for instructions for how to directly export your records to RefWorks.


Tips for Literature Searches

The process of literature searching is complex. You need to understand what you are searching for and why.  Having a solid understanding of your topic, methodology, needs, and audience expectations is important.  Talking about your topic with someone else will be helpful.  Your librarian (Rachel) is always happy to talk about your topic, she will ask you lots of questions that are likely to help refine your thinking, identify strengths, and also areas of weakness.

Know there will be a lot of variation between students; no two processes will look exactly the same. Literature searching is not a 1-2-3 straightforward process. It is cyclical. You should constantly evaluate how you are searching and shift your approach as you go. You should expect to engage in a lot of "pre-research" before your formalize your searches. However, even with all this variation here is a basic outline of the steps you will take during this process.

  • Draft your research question, keeping in mind this will likely shift and develop over time, particularly by becoming more narrow and focused.
  • Identify relevant databases you will search (e.g., ERIC, APA PsycINFO, Scopus, etc.)
  • Deconstruct your research question into keywords that can be used to search databases. (Use these keywords to practice searching databases before engaging in the next discussion). 
  • Use tools and information from the database searches to help you solidify your keywords.
    • Use the thesaurus
    • Look at subject headings
    • Pay attention to keywords in titles and abstracts
    • Look for repeated phrases that come up on articles that seem relevant
  • Use database tools to refine your search.
    • Use Boolean operators (and, or, not) in an advanced search
    • Use search history to combine searches
    • Use limiters (e.g., publication date, type of article, peer-review)
  • Evaluate your search.
    • Identify relevant articles. Mine those articles for additional keywords.
    • Identify articles that don't match your needs. Are there keywords bringing these up that you could exclude?
  • Run a formal search in all databases relevant to your topic. 
    • Take clear notes of your search strategy and results to include in your methods later.
    • Extract information from the database, which may include downloading citations and abstracts into a bibliography manager (e.g., RefWorks, Mendeley, Zotero), finding print or online full texts of articles, and ordering full text from interlibrary loan.

You are likely to hit roadblocks in your search. You may not be finding relevant sources. There are several approaches you can take to reset your search strategy.

  • One is to try different keywords by thinking outside the box or search one element of your topic at time to see which piece isn't working.
  • You can also look at the number of results you are getting. If you are getting above 500 results (this number isn't definitive), you likely need to find more narrow keywords. Your search is too broad.
  • If you know of one or two articles that are clearly relevant, you can use the keywords from those articles, look at sources it references, and look at sources that cite back to this reference (use Google Scholar to search for the title and click on "cited by" under the abstract).
  • Or you could use a specialized database that tracks who cites who (i.e., Scopus & Web of Science). Some databases provided citation information (e.g., APA PsychInfo).  

It's best to jump in and practice so you can determine what your individualized search process should look like.  Your librarian (Rachel) is also happy to help you with designing a process that works for you and your needs.

Dissertations & Theses Resources

Open Access

The following links provide access to open access resources and literature.  This is not a complete list, but will give you access to some of the major sites.

Open Access and Gray Literature

The following links provide access to open access and gray literature.  This is not a complete list, but will give you access to some of the major sites.

For more inforamtion on open access go to:

SPARC, Open Access:

For more information on gray litearture go to:

IL ToolKit: Finding Information: Gray Literature

ACRL Internet Resrouces: Gray Literature

Journal Publication Aids

Subject Guide

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Rachel Wadham
1222 Harold B. Lee Library

(801) 422-6780
Subjects: Education