A literature search is an organized search for published material on a selected topic. You will be required to use databases that retrieve academic sources of high quality and reliability.
Literature databases allow you to search a wide array of journals and other sources, and enable you to collect scholarly references. Some of these may be in the form of an abstract,
whereas others might be the full text of a journal article. You can usually save these to your own computer for future reference.
An effective literature search takes an organized approach:
1. Decide on a search topic
With your team, formulate a general question to narrow and define the topic. For example, if
you wished to determine the effect of pH on biodiversity, you might ask “Do two ecosystems
with consistently different pH exhibit differences in biodiversity that can be explained by pH?”
From such a question, you can then develop hypotheses and predictions.
Alternatively, you might wish for each team member to independently search the literature and
bring back interesting ideas to the team for discussion. The team can discuss all the different
ideas from diverse papers, and decide on the one most interesting to everyone. Your lab instructor may instruct all teams to use either of the above techniques, or may allow the teams to decide which approach to take. The important thing is to choose a topic that is both
interesting and relevant.
2. Use appropriate keywords to use in your search
Identify important keywords. In the example above, you might include “biodiversity, pH,
ecosystem, acid, alkaline,” or any number of terms related to this area. Also consider:
• When to use broad terms, and when to use narrower terms to refine your search
• Use synonyms for your keywords to find every possible variant of the vocabulary used in the
research on this topic.
• Use dictionaries to check spelling and find keyword synonyms
Biodiversity1 – 5
• Using online encyclopedias (e.g., Wikipedia) to find initial background information that might
help you refine your search or choose an area for your research topic.
3. Choose a Database
GoogleScholar is an excellent place to start, but there are other databases available through
the UM library system that you may wish to use, as well.
4. Perform your Search
• Use Boolean operators (always use them un upper case) to combine search
• Truncate (shorten) your keywords to make your search broader.
• If you are not sure how to spell a keyword, use wildcards.
• To narrow your search, use phrases enclosed on quotation marks. For example, “pH
effect on species richness”.
• Use the database to search for keywords in different places, such as “title” or “abstract”.
• If you find a useful article by a particular author, search that author’s name to find
papers on the same topic.
• If you find a useful article, search its Literature Cited section to find additional, related
• Make sure the literature you are citing is recent and current.
• Make sure the literature you use is from a peer-reviewed, scientific journal.
• Make sure to identify whether your source is a journal article, a book, a thesis, etc.
5. Determine the availability of the material you wish to reference.
If the papers you wish to read are not available online, you may be able to get a copy by
contacting the people at the UM Richter Library Help Desk. If our library does not have the
paper you need, they may be able to get it via interlibrary loan. Since this may require some
turnaround time, start this assignment immediately, and don’t find yourself hamstrung by time
Each student will be assigned the task of finding at least three relevant papers from a
peer-reviewed scientific journal on the topic of biodiversity (possibly narrowed to an area discussed in advance by your team). Once you find the publications of interest, read them completely and analytically.
Your assignment is to:
(1) a copy of each scientific paper relevant to your study
(2) a one-page summary and review of the papers
(Use the template attached for this.)
IN OTHER WORDS:
3 ARTICLES NEED TO BE FOUND REGARDING THE TOPIC I LISTES ABOVE AND EACH ONE NEEDS TO BE SUMMARIZED AND EXPLAINED AS TO WHY ITS RELEVANT.