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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

Literature Review: Definitions & Process

A descriptive guide to the literature review process

What is a Literature Review?

What is a literature review and how do I determine if one is needed?
A literature review is a systematic approach to locating, reviewing, and evaluating the published work and work in progress of scholars, researchers, and practitioners on a given topic.

Literature reviews are done for many reasons and in many situations. Here's a short list:
to learn about a field of study
to understand current knowledge on a subject
to formulate questions and identify a research problem
to focus the purpose of one's research
to contribute new knowledge to a field
personal knowledge
intellectual curiosity
to prepare for architectural program writing
academic degrees
grant applications
proposal writing
academic research

Sources to use for literature review:
Online catalogs of local, regional, national, and special libraries
meta-catalogs such as, or RIBA
subject-specific online article databases (such as Art Full Text, Avery Index, etc)

digital institutional repositories such as Digital Commons @ RISD; see Registry of Open Access Repositories
e-Journals Index to identify journals indexed in Fleet Search, RISD's Integrated Search

Ulrichsweb to identify the international scope of periodical literature in a field

works cited in scholarly books and articles

print bibliographies

the Internet-locate nonprofit, university, and government websites

search google scholar to locate grey literature & referenced citations

trade and scholarly publisher's websites (Ulrichsweb)
Use RISD Library's Interlibrary Loan service to request copies of items you find in these diverse places!

Who to ask for guidance:
professors & thesis committee members
experts and practitioners in one's field
librarians, peers, colleagues