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Research Guides

Research Tips and Techniques for Literature Review in SE Asian Studies: Research Strategies

Why a Literature Review?

  • Identify experts in your field; whose work is your professor reading?
  • Identify major debates driving scholarship in your field; who are the protagonists?
  • Identify major journals and other sources (report series, data series, government sources, internet sites), including best places for book reviews of new works in the field.
  • Identify gaps in existing scholarship that can help direct your research.

Conduct and Document Your Research


  • Keep track of your research
  • Set up an account on RefWorks, or other citation manager supported by UW Libraries
  • See Managing Your Citations
  • Use "note" and "keyword" fields to annotate your research findings.  This will help you follow trends in the literature and organize your thoughts and data into a written draft
  • Synthesize results
  • Use your RefWorks database structure to structure your work
  • Use your RefWorks database to suggest new questions for further research

Plan Your Review

Define your area of interest using more general literature

  • Are there existing Literature Reviews?
  • Search UW catalog using terms "methods" or "research" or "bibliography" in conjunction with terms for your topic
  • Search Interdisciplinary Tools for review articles
  • Search Discipline-specific databases using terms such as "Literature review," "Bibliographic essay.
    • Select your source databases
      • Visit the Libraries' Research Guides to see what databases are recommended for your field
      • Use OCLC for comprehensive book searches, if books are important in your field
      • Indexing only, or full-text databases: be sure that you are not missing older data
      • What is in an index?  Chapters from books?  Only journal articles?  Popular interpretations, news reports?
      • Citation databases, like Social Science Citation Index: allow citation tracing to determine important research
      • Web of Science - Use the "times cited" feature and "cited reference search" to narrow your literature review; create a "citation report" on your literature review topic
      • Google Scholar  - Use the advanced search feature to limit by publication date, journal, author, discipline; use the "cited by" and "related articles" feature to connect to other scholars  
    • Discipline-specific databases will provide more useful information than aggregated databases, like Academic Search Complete
  • Choose search terms
    • Become familiar with the terms used in your databases
      • In EBSCO databases, click "Choose Databases" to refine your literature search to disciplines
      • Within your database, click on section indicating terms, e.g. Thesaurus (Eric), Index -- Subject Descriptors (EconLit) or MESH (Medline)
    • For book searching, become familiar with the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Start with a keyword search, and find a book that is on your topic, look at the Subject Headings and click on them to refine your search, or find similar items.
  • Define criteria for relevance
    • What is the scope of the empirical materials you are searching for?  Subjects, date ranges etc.
    • What languages are important to your field.  Are you using search terms that catch those languages?
  • Define criteria for methodology
    • What are the possible methodologies you might employ, do they fall within a discipline, interdisciplinary?
    • What are the specialized disciplinary sources for this methodology?