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Literature Study

Most research starts with a literature study. It helps to clarify the question; makes sure the question hasn’t been answered already and provides enough background to be able to answer the question. While doing literature reviews two things matter, find (all) relevant literature and keep track of what you’re reading as you’ll need to cite the relevant literature later.

Searching for relevant literature requires having an idea what you’re searching for and then combing (online) scholarly databases for articles about it. The easiest starting point is ‘Google Scholar’, as it will often give a link to a freely available version of a paper. Additional use full features include exporting a citation (set this at the bottom of the preferences pane), finding other papers, limiting to recent publications and most importantly it’s search isn’t limited to one database. Other databases are often more field-specific (e.g. pubMed for medical information or ACM for computer research).

Tracking literature is at least as important as finding it in the first place. Well-tracked sources will lead to less time-waisted at writing time to find that citation again. Software to track literature is called ‘reference or citation management software’. Wikipedia has an overview of packages. For convenience sake, pick software that’ll integrate with the writing tool ( LaTeX, MS Word).

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