Skip to Main Content
Link to CSU Home
Link to CSU Home
Students in the Library

Michael Schwartz Library

Students in the Connection Lounge
Michael Schwartz Library

COM 501: Professional Seminar in Communication

Literature Review Resources

Individual library databases are specific packages of journals, made easily searchable, and often providing full text. Part of the search process is simply selecting where to do your searching. The databases below are geared towards communication research and the social sciences, and they should provide good coverage for your literature review. 

Literature Review Tips and Tricks

Databases are designed to provide you with advanced control over your search. They do this by supporting (and encouraging) boolean searching to combine search terms, field searching, and other advanced search features.



Databases require more precise searching than When you combine search terms with AND, the database only returns results with both keywords. When you combine search terms with OR, the database returns results with any of those keywords. 

Use AND searching to combine the different concepts of your research question. Use OR to combine related search terms (like similar terms and synonyms).

While less frequently used, NOT can also be useful in excluding specific terms. Databases allow for all other sorts of advanced search features like truncation (for searching all variations of a root word) and proximity searching (looking for specific search terms within a certain number of words of each other). Use the Help feature in any database for more specific instructions on making use of advanced searching.

It's important to develop a strategy going forward for how you manage all of the research sources that you find. Especially in your graduate careers, you may find yourself frequently returning to the same literature, and building a personal library of articles, book chapters, and your own notes. 

One way to manage your research is to use a citation manager like Zotero, Mendeley, or Endnote. This software programs allow you to: 

1. Save 'records' for research sources you find (articles, books, websites)
2. Organize these records
3. Cite the records

My preference out of the three is Zotero - it is free and open source and works well with our library databases. 

Another useful strategy is to keep a  search log - notes about your research process. Record here notes about how your research question changes, new information, databases that are especially useful, fruitful searches, and any other notes about the process of conducting your literature review. Zotero allows you to record 'standalone' notes which are not tied to a specific citation - but you might experiment with a personal knowledge manager or note taking app of your own. I particularly like the bi-directional note linking convention used in Roam, Notion, and Obsidian. Notion and Obsidian are free (both with some additional paid features).  

Do you like to use Google Scholar? While it isn't the same a searching a database, it can certainly lead to finding relevant literature. However, if you use it at home you may experience the frustration of finding relevant looking articles but not being able to access the full-text. This is because Google Scholar does not automatically connect you to CSU-accessible content. Follow the instructions in this link to turn on Library Links for the CSU library.

Additionally, you may want to install the ThirdIron Nomad browser plugin. It finds CSU-accessible content on most websites, and can quickly connect you to library access. 

Remember, while you can find a lot of scholarly research on the open web - quite often you can only access it because the library is paying for it!