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Literature Review Information Literacy Session

Adjust your searches

Return to a search tool with your revised Venn diagram.

Narrow to under 80 results to get the most relevant.

Evaluate the citations. Review full citation & abstract, but not yet the full text.


  • Relevance of topic to your interests, based on title & abstract
  • Type of resource (book, book chapter, article)
  • Date published
  • Author(s) & their discipline
  • Journal’s discipline

If any look interesting, save to RefWorks to review later. If none look interesting, why not? How can you adjust your searches accordingly?

Advanced database searching

At this point, you might need more refinement in your search techniques. Review the guides below for better search strategies. 

Subject headings vs. keywords

Keywords Subject Headings
  • Natural language - user generated
  • Controlled vocabulary used to describe a subject
  • Could appear only once - anywhere in abstract or title
  • Database applies subject headings to each resource, based on topic/subject of resource (adds specificity to your search)
  • No related terms are found, but homonyms might be (words spelled the same, but with different meanings)
  • Exist in a thesaurus, so helps you find related terms, weed out homonyms
  • Like using Ctrl+F in a document
  • All variations (spellings) are covered
  • Useful when: topic is very new, or looking for specific person/organization
  • Useful when: topic has established academic research on it, and you want highly relevant results


Tips for using keywords

Spelling & word variations (these work in most databases)

  • Truncation Use * at the end of the word for variations on endings
    • Educt* (retrieves educate, educator, educated, educational)
  • Question mark Use ? in the middle of a word for variable spellings
    • Colo*r (retrieves color & colour)

Group a phrase together in precise order 

  • Use quotes “ “ to take a phrase together, rather than each word separately
    • “industrial and organizational psychology”

Proximity searching - find words near each other

  • Ovid
    • ADJ = adjacency
    • Examples:
      • PMDD ADJ1 treatment = PMDD treatment or treatment PMDD
      • PMDD ADJ2 treatment = PMDD [any word] treatment or treatment [any word] PMDD
      • PMDD ADJ3 treatment = PMDD [any two words] treatment or treatment [any two words] PMDD
    • N = Near (searches terms in any order)
    • W = Within (searches terms in specified order)
    • Examples:
      • diabetes N1 health = diabetes [any word] health or health [any word] diabetes
      • diabetes W1 health = diabetes [any word] health
  • ProQuest
    • near/ or n/ (searches terms in any order)
    • pre/ or p/ (searches terms in specified order)
    • Examples:
      • diabetes near/1 health = diabetes [any word] health or health [any word] diabetes
      • diabetes pre/1 health = diabetes [any word] health

ACT UP - Evaluating sources is social justice work

ACT UP means to act in a way that pushes against dominant narratives and oppressive hierarchies of knowledge production. 

  • Move away from passively consuming media.
  • Think critically about the resources you are using, citing, and forwarding in your community
  • We all have a social responsibility to share information that is true. This makes us informed cultural producers of information every time we repost, retweet, share, or site information.
  • Use the ACT UP method to evaluate your sources, push against dominant narratives, burst filter bubbles and oppressive citation circles

This is a borrowed & reused acronym from ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) - a direct action advocacy group working to help those living with AIDS. While many think of ACT UP as being active in the 1980's, the work of ACT UP is still being done today. Remember, social justice change takes time.


  • Who created the resource? Google the authors - background information matters. What else did they write? What organizations are they affiliated with? 
  • Intention/motivation is critical - why did the author write the piece? To educate, convince, share information?
  • For websites: find the "About us" section 
  • if you can't find anything about who created the resource, be skeptical


  • What date was the resource published?
  • When was the website last updated?

T - Truth

  • Can you verify the claims in the resource through other resources (not ones that cite the resource or which the resource cited!)
  • Are there typos & spelling mistakes throughout the text? Is the author is sloppy in their writing, might they be sloppy in their facts?
  • Just because you found something from a reputable site does not mean that the site cannot contain shoddy research, misinformation, or false claims. Even journal articles from reputable, peer-reviewed journals can be retracted. 

U - Unbiased

  • Obviously, we are all biased , so we're really looking for impartial resources
  • Is the resource open about their biases or trying to hide them?
  • Who is funding the research? Any conflicts of interest?

P  - Privilege

  • Academic publishing has historically privileged white men and this still continues today
  • Who or which groups are missing from the research conversation?
  • Methodology - who was not part of the study? Does the study make claims about all people when the participants were all male, for example
  • Who has access to the source you found? Is it freely available or behind a pay wall that you have access to because you're a student?



Sahura, D. (2020, April 6). Evaluate Sources: ACT UPSalem State University Library.