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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
Online search platforms of R1 Carnegie Classification Research University Libraries
Meta-catalogs such as Worldcat, Art Discovery Group or RIBA
Subject-specific online Article databases (such as Art Full Text, Avery Index, DAAI, 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 federated Search
Online Archives such as ArchiveGrid, Smithsonian Libraries Archives for primary source collections, and guides to physical archival collections
Ulrich's Global Serials Directory to identify the international scope of periodical literature in a field. For more info see the Guide to Using Ulrich's.
Use trade and scholarly publisher's websites to conduct preliminary searches and identify publications in a discipline, such as Science Direct Open Access
Works cited in scholarly books and articles
Print bibliographies
The Internet-locate nonprofit, university, and government websites
Google Scholar to locate grey literature & referenced citations
Google Books to locate publications and preview content before requesting through Interlibrary Loan
Suggest a Purchase to recommend items to be added to the library's collections
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