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Literature Reviews

Information and resources on how to conduct different types of literature reviews in all disciplines.

Using Eligibility Criteria to Screen Sources

First, you need to determine your eligibility criteria (also called inclusion criteria) — the criteria you will use to determine whether a source fits within the scope of your literature review. 

These criteria could include: quantitative vs. qualitative studies, population, methodology, geographic location, etc. 

After determining the eligibility criteria that makes sense for your review, consider sorting your sources into the groups shown below.

As you're reading a source, you will need to analyze it to determine if it meets your eligibility criteria. 

To Read Include Exclude Keep for Later
Sources that you have located but haven't read yet Sources that you've read and meet your eligibility criteria Sources that you've read and don't meet your eligibility criteria Sources that you've read and it is unclear if they meet your eligibility criteria
It's important to keep ALL of the sources you've read so you can refer back to them later. Otherwise, you may accidentally locate, read and analyze the same source multiple times.

Reading Scholarly Articles Effectively

The least efficient way to read a scholarly article is from Introduction to Conclusion. Instead, read out of order, skipping around to various sections. Why? You may waste your time reading dense sections (like the Results), only to realize that the article doesn't meet your eligibility criteria after reading an easier section (like the Conclusion).


1 — Title, Authors & Citation  5 — Section headings/sub-headings
2 — Abstract 6 — Skim figures & captions
3 — Introduction 7 — Methods
4 — Conclusion 8 — Results & Discussion
After reading each section, STOP. If the article isn't relevant to you any longer, stop reading. Move it to your Exclude folder and make notes on why you excluded it.

For more tips on how to read journal articles strategically, see the slides and recording from the How to Read Journal Articles workshop presented by UM engineering librarians.

In addition to reading each individual article more effectively, if you have a large amount of literature consider prioritizing journals and authors. Are there journals in your field that are considered important or seminal? Are there authors you recognize from within your field or institution? Read those articles first.

File Naming Conventions [FNC]

A file naming convention (FNC) is a standardized way of naming your digital files. All your files should have unique names so that you don't have to open the file to know its contents.

Consider these ideas when creating a FNC

  • Choose between 4-7 elements for the FNC, such as date, document type, document purpose, etc.
  • Use a standardized nomenclature for dates, such as YYYY-MM-DD
  • Only use letters, numbers, hyphens and underscores. Avoid special characters, such as !@#$%^&
  • Avoid using ambiguous words (like final, initial, revised, etc.). 
  • Write down your FNC! You'll thank yourself later


Ambiguous File Name: 

This file name is ambiguous because it doesn't list a date or purpose and has the ambiguous 'revised' term. 

Descriptive File Name:

This file name is much more descriptive because it lists the date, purpose of the document and the initials of the person who last commented on it. 

You don't want your files to look like this!