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Writing a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal: Search the Literature

Books, websites, and powerpoints to help you write your dissertation or thesis proposal

Goal of Literature Search

The overall goals of the literature search are 1) to refine your topic, and 2) then find as much relevant information as possible on your topic, within reason. Talk to your advisor to get guidance on this. You many not need to do the full-fledged literature review for your proposal. 

Here are objectives that will help you meet the goals of the literature search:

  • Determine the most important databases for your discipline and topic
  • Search for all source types allowed or relevant for your topic, e.g., books, articles, reviews, dissertations and theses, websites, films, etc.
  • Find peer-reviewed empirical and theoretical literature
  • Find peer-reviewed primary and secondary sources. A previously published literature review related to your topic is an invaluable source for developing your topic and finding the important literature.
  • Develop an understanding of the academic terminology for your topic
  • Determine the time frame for the literature review

What Is Peer Review?

Many instructors require you to use peer-reviewed sources for your papers and projects, but what does that mean?

  • Peer review is the process of having experts in a field review the quality of an article or book before it is published
  • Most articles in scholarly and academic journals are peer-reviewed
  • Books published by university or academic presses are peer-reviewed

Most databases allow you to limit your search to peer-reviewed articles. Here are two examples:

Resources for Searching

The UNT Libraries have all the sources and search tools you need for your literature review. Our collections contain books, journals, dissertations and theses, films, music and more. Use these search tools to conduct your literature review:

Graduate Student Videos

Use Catalog and Databases First!

Why? Because you can do much broader searches in the UNT library catalog and online databases than within full text journal or book packages. 

You don't want to miss any important sources on your topic that are in print at UNT or that are online or in print at another library. The UNT library catalog and databases will link you to the full text journal and book packages, so start your searches in the catalog for books and in electronic databases for journal articles.

What's the difference between a catalog/database and a full text package? A catalog/database has the following characteristics:

  • a catalog includes thousands or millions of records for books, films, music, microforms, etc.
  • a database includes the citations and abstracts (summaries) for thousands of journal articles, book chapters, newspaper articles, etc.
  • may or may not include full text of the documents
  • sophisticated searching capabilities
  • examples - EBSCOhost databases, Web of Knowledge, Lexis Nexis Academic, UNT library catalog

A full text package has the following characteristics:

  • contains the full text of a limited number of electronic journals or books (two dozen to 2000), usually from one publisher
  • basic search capabilities
  • examples - ScienceDirect, JSTOR, Sage Journals Online

 

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