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MDST 1001 Foundations of Media Studies (McLean): Conducting a Literature Review

A guide to the class MDST 1001 Foundations of Media Studies

Conducting a Literature Review

literature review is the process of finding and reading articles or other types of information about your topic(s). It may also include writing a summary of the articles, which helps put your project in the context of what others have said about your topic.  

​Step 1: Write down your research topic, idea, concept, or question


Step 2: Brainstorm

  • Determine words to use for searching databases by breaking each word in your topic into 1-2 word search terms
  • Use a thesaurus or try searching Google to help you determine synonyms
Main Word/Concept Similar Word/Concept Similar Word/Concept
Example: Technology Electronics Cell phones

Step 3: Launch a Search in a Database

  • Think about what type of information you want, and select a database for searching. Recommended databases and other resources for this project can be found in the tabs at the top of this page. 
  • Choose a combination of words from the columns
  • Remember to break down ideas into 1-3 word search terms per box
  • Connect terms with “and”, “or”, and “not”
  • Use quotation marks for important joined words, example “Black Mirror”

Step 4: Evaluate Results

  • Use the navigation menu to refine the results
  • Read abstracts of promising articles
  • Examine subject terms/keywords listed in the articles you like
  • Go back to steps 2 and 3 to refine your search terms to get better results

Step 5: Choose Articles

  • Download, print, or email the articles to save them

Step 6: Record Citation Information

  • If available, use the citation help tool in the database
  • Always double check your citations/references format with a manual
  • Review the Research Guide’s “Citing” tab for help

Step 7: Check References for Other Possible Sources

  • When you find articles you like, check the author’s references. If you find journal articles of interest, use to search for them.

Google Search Tips

If you're not finding quality results from your Google searches, try some of the tips below.

Google search tips
Search for an exact phrase  " " "big brother africa"
Eliminate a word - "green revolution" -india
Search a specific site or page site: rachel dolezal"
Include alternative words OR macklemore thrift race OR class OR gender

Use Google Advanced Search for easier access to these options and more.

For even more search tips, see this page from MIT.

Combine Search Words

AND  link words by AND to search for all words in the same resource

OR  link words by OR to search for one word or another (instead of both/all words)

NOT  to eliminate results with a certain term

“Quotations” – add quotations to a group of two or more words to search for the exact phrase 

Media, Communication and Information Librarian

Stacy Gilbert's picture
Stacy Gilbert
Norlin Library
(303) 492-9395