When to Stop Searching the Literature: Three Tips

When do you stop searching the literature? This article provides three tips to help you decide whether to go on searching the literature or not on your research topic.

1. Stop searching the literature when literature contents are repetitive

As it is common nowadays to use online databases, you may stop searching the literature once the same articles appear even when you vary your keywords on a particular topic. You can be confident that whatever you have missed may not matter that much.

Examples of online databases to explore include the following: Google Scholar, Scopus, Directory of Open Access Journals, ProQuest, African Journals Online, arXiv, BioOne, among others. Wikipedia lists an extensive collection of academic databases for free or via subscription.

My personal experience in using Google Scholar showed relevant articles for my chosen topic in the first 20-30 titles or links. Reading the meta description for each title helps me decide whether to read the abstract or not. The meta description is that snippet of information found just below the title of the article.

You can exhaust your literature search by looking at the bibliographic entries of articles. That is, if you can access the whole paper. Open access articles may be available. While subscription journals are still considered suitable reference materials, open access articles are gaining ground. The European Commission promotes open access publishing gains to better and efficient science as well as innovation.

2. Consider your submission deadline

To be pragmatic about it, you need to deliver the goods within a specified period. If you are given a month or even a few weeks to search the literature, you do not have the luxury of time to write an extensive literature review. If you are doing your review within a semester in the process of writing your thesis, then, by all means, keep to that schedule. Your “free time” may be windows of one to two hours of reading in a day as you comply with the other requirements of the course.

Saving time (Source: )

It would help if you had adequate time to synthesize the literature. Come up with your conceptual framework within a reasonable period. After reading about 20-30 references, you may likely have already conceptualized something significant. Keep to your deadline. Planning a strategy on how to do things on time can help you achieve your task.

Finding a meta-analysis, for example, can save you a lot of time. A meta-analysis systematically assesses the results of previous research to derive conclusions about that body of research. In effect, it brings relevant literature together in one study. Thus, a synthesis facilitates literature search. Just update or enhance the composition to come up with your conclusions or synthesis.

3. Gap in knowledge has been found

Stop searching the literature if you have found the gap in knowledge in the topic that you are exploring. A research gap pertains to areas of study that have not been explored. Minimal studies have been done so far to understand the phenomenon. It takes a while to discern such a gap, so you need to be patient in reading the literature and note down the significant findings.

Knowing when to stop searching the literature depends in part on your familiarity with the topic at hand. Hence, it pays to study something that you already have an established level of familiarity as you go through your academic pursuit. That is the mark of being a specialist in your field.

©2020 January 25 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick (January 25, 2020). When to Stop Searching the Literature: Three Tips [Blog Post]. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from

How to Start a Review of Literature

Writing the literature review of a research paper needs careful planning. It requires the employment of logical steps before drawing out one’s conceptual framework. This article provides information on how to start a review of literature using Google Scholar, an online database of scientific information, as a source of relevant publications.

The task of doing research is not easy for a beginning researcher. Unfamiliarity with scholarly publications pertinent to a chosen topic causes one to falsely conclude that no work has been done so far on the issue at hand. A good review of literature prevents this tendency. But how should one go about it?

The following article shows how to start a review of literature using Google Scholar, an online database of scientific publications.

Clear Understanding of the Research Topic Before Review of Literature

A literature review revolves around a central theme – the research topic or research problem. The research topic should be stated clearly to guide the review of literature. A good review of literature starts off with a good understanding of the research topic.

Writing the research topic in question form facilitates the review of literature. The research problem arises from one’s observation of a phenomenon that prompts the need for a research investigation.

Examples of Problem Statement

For example, the disaster response team observed that despite government warnings to evacuate in anticipation of a strong typhoon, many of the residents opted to stay in their homes despite the threat to their lives and property.

Several questions arise such as:

1. Does ignorance of the government’s warning of the impending danger an indication that people do not trust weather predictions?
2. Do residents value more their property than their lives?
3. Do the residents feel that they will survive the disaster despite its severity? What made them feel that way?

Use of Relevant Keywords in the Search for Related Literature

The three questions given in the previous section clearly state the focus of the review of literature. One can deduce keywords that may be used for online search of related literature such as “believability of weather predictions” for the first problem statement.

Typing “believability of weather predictions” in Google Scholar returns the following related literature:

literature review
Figure 1. Two articles related to research problem 1.

The above figure shows that other researchers have conducted studies related to the first problem statement. Two out of ten articles returned have bearing on the first question. We can say then that the topic is researchable. Figure 1 also shows the following information:

1. the title of the study (in large blue fonts);
2. the authors with the main author underlined, the date and the publisher (in green);
3. a meta description that summarizes the page’s content (three lines of description in black highlighting keywords related to the searched keyword);
4. information on article citations (46 and 81 respectively in the two articles); and
5. a link to related articles.

Clicking on the title link of the first article, the following abstract comes up:


This study assessed responses to variations of several notable news credibility measures. TV news was evaluated as more credible than newspapers, although its margin of supremacy was a function of researcher operationalizations of the concept.

The study is about news credibility and the influence of the researcher’s method on news credibility. Television news was found more credible than newspapers. But we are not after credibility comparison of television and newspapers. This is not the kind of information that we want. So we proceed to the next article about hurricane forecast and warning system.

Clicking on the title link of the succeeding article, the abstract appears. Although the focus of the article is on hurricane warning, it can be discerned that the article discusses high priority social science issues. Again, this appears to be still out of the topic.

However, getting back to the meta description and upon closer scrutiny, there is an important information that may be of interest to us. It says, “In risk communication, believability depends on trust and confidence in the source, raising …” (Figure 2). This is important information that a researcher can follow through. The article, after all, may be relevant to what we want. We need to secure the article.

We are fortunate that upon checking on the article again, there is a link at the far right that indicates a pdf file (encircled in red) is available for download. After downloading and reading the article, I found out that there are many relevant statements related to the issue of believability of predictions.

review of literature
Figure 2. Article related to research problem 1 with a pdf link.

It will now easy to collect other articles similar to the above article using the same procedure. Identify the relevant article title, read the meta description, and explore the availability of the material. With patience and a little imagination, you will be able to collect the literature that you need for your research.

You may proceed to the next problem statement and see if you can follow.

©2018 February 16 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick (February 16, 2018). How to Start a Review of Literature [Blog Post]. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from


Writing a Literature Review: Evaluating Websites as Reliable Sources of Information

Writing a literature review is a tedious task unless you apply a systematic approach to it. But first, you must get back to the very reason why you are writing the literature review to appreciate its role in completing your research paper or thesis.

Since the internet is a great source of information and is nowadays a common destination for researchers who want to access the latest information as quickly as possible, care must be exerted in selecting research papers that will help you build your thesis.

This article gets back to the definition of the literature review as a take-off point towards being choosy in using easily accessible websites as sources of information in developing a thesis.

Literature Review Defined

A literature review is a critical description of the literature pertaining to the research topic that you as a researcher chose to work on as part of your thesis proposal or research paper. Emphasis is given to the word “critical.” This implies that you have read a great deal of literature such that you are able to see clearly the issue at hand and make an informed assessment.

Reading a great deal does not mean that you will just read any literature that comes your way. This means that you have read literature that are backed up by evidence, meaning, scientific papers or articles that are found in peer-reviewed journals or reliable sources. Reliable sources ensure that you have a good foundation in making a thoughtful position embodied in your thesis statement.

Selecting Literature from Websites

You must be careful in selecting the literature from websites that will be part of your review because of the preponderance of “scientific” journals that take advantage of unsuspecting researchers looking for a platform to publish their findings in open access journals. To prevent being victimized, evaluate your sources for reliability.

internet sources

Jeffrey Beal, a librarian at the University of Colorado, took time to list questionable open-access journals. If you have been invited to publish in these journals or serve as editor or member of the board, think twice. Browse the site and evaluate the quality of the articles posted. Poor grammar, wrong spelling, or garbled information are tell-tale signs of predatory journals.

It is easy to be misled as everybody can easily access a large body of literature using the internet. You must therefore adopt a prudent attitude in selecting literature from websites that will help you develop a good thesis statement. As open-access journals become popular sources of scientific literature, a good researcher must develop a keen eye in selecting the wheat from the chaff.

©2015 January 30 P. A. Regoniel

Education Research

Research Studies Conducted on Teachers’ In-service Training

This article pinpoints studies conducted on in-service training events for teachers. It is written and organized as a review of related literature in the dissertation of Dr. Mary Alvior. This article provides an example of a review of related literature focused on specific variables of studies made on teachers’ training.

Sharma (2010) conducted a study about the training needs of high school teachers in government and private schools of Bangkok. The study found that teachers preferred training in diagnosing students’ learning needs, identifying students’ personal needs and difficulties, organizing instruction for enrichment, developing multi-grade teaching skills, developing learning activities on subjects, adopting problem-solving skills, developing emotional intelligence skills, publishing research papers, conducting action research, and developing total quality management skills. Hence, training for the aforesaid competencies are highly required.

 Likewise, the studies of Mizuno (2004) and Yang (2005) affirmed that teachers viewed in-service education to be more effective when the content of the training is based on their self-reported needs. They also found the important factors that can improve teachers’ willingness to participate in in-service training programs. These factors are: (1) competent resource persons, (2) involvement of trainees in the training process, (3) consultation with teachers to assess their needs, and (4) support to teachers to implement new ideas/innovations acquired in in-service training programs.

They further agreed that it is not the duration of the program but the degree of satisfaction with the in-service training events that contributes to the impact of the training at the classroom level. They likewise believed that student performance is dependent upon the teachers’ quality of teaching. Thus, it is essential to enrich teaching skills and quality of teaching, as well as to adjust their training according to their work situation.

Likewise, Yang (2005) emphasized the need for INSET providers to spend some time listening to teachers’ voice, investigating what teachers really need, and designing appropriate programs with suitable speakers before any INSET course is implemented. INSET should not be carried out in a “top-down” direction; instead, it should be built up from down to top, in which teachers may be empowered to decide which training activities are suited to them.

Indeed, teachers become satisfied with in-service training programs if their professional needs are addressed during the training. This is true in the case of teachers in the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) who were highly satisfied with their training programs (Bakar et al., 2008).

In conclusion, teachers need to continually engage in any in-service training activity in order to develop their quality of teaching. As Mizuno (2004) quotes Desforges (1995), “The best of teachers spend a lifetime learning to improve on their professional practice”.


1. Sharma, S. (2010). Perceptions of teachers & school leaders on competencies of teachers & training needs. Academic Leaderhip The Online Journal, Current Issue – Volume 8 Issue 4. Retrieved 16 January, 2010 from

2. Mizuno, C. (2004). A comparative study of teacher education in japan, korea, and australia. Retrieved 1 February, 2011 from

3. Bakar, R., Konting, M., Jamian, R., & and N. Lyndon (2008). Teaching efficacy of Universiti Putra Malaysia trainee teachers in teaching Malay Language as a first language. Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 16, 1-14.

4. Yang, W. H. (2005). An Investigation of English Teachers’ Perspectives on INSET Needs and Provision in Taiwan. Retrieved 8 July, 2010 from

© 2015 January 16 M. G. Alvior


How to Write the Literature Review: 4 Steps

For many students, writing the literature review is one of the most time consuming and mind-boggling part of thesis writing. However, this should not cause anybody to lose confidence or enthusiasm as there are ways by which the literature review could be written without much pain. If you know what you are doing, then the task becomes easier.

This article deciphers existing tips on how to write the literature review in order to be more systematic about it. Here’s a step by step guide on how to get started.

4 Steps on How to Write the Literature Review

Step 1. Rewrite the article to summarize the salient points.

After you have gathered the necessary literature related to the topic you have chosen to do research on, the next step is to write the literature review. This is quite a challenge, as you will have to rewrite, in your own words, the scientific articles that you have read. The important findings of an article can be described in a paragraph of a few sentences.

What information will you include in the description of other researchers’ work? Essentially, the paragraph should contain the following:

  • The author(s) and date when the article was published;
  • What the authors did (the method);
  • The variables they examined or manipulated;
  • A short description of the major findings; and
  • A brief explanation of relationships, trends, or differences between variables.
  • Here’s an example:

    Regoniel et al. (2013) examined the adaptation options of stakeholders to typhoons in two coastal communities, one directly exposed to the open sea while the other is buffered from strong winds by islets near the coast. The coastal residents in the community directly exposed to strong typhoons built concrete breakwater to mitigate the effects of storm surges and strong waves. On the other hand, the other community opted to reforest the mangroves along the coastline.

    Apparently, the intensity of typhoons caused the difference in response to typhoons, one group opted a quick fix by putting up a breakwater while the other chose mangrove reforestation as a long-term strategy because there is no immediate need to reduce the impact of typhoons.

    Step 2. Decide on how the paragraphs should be arranged.

    Which article description should go first? Some researchers arrange by topic or theme while others prefer to arrange using the set of questions posed in the introduction, specifically, according to how the problem statements are arranged. The latter appears to be more effective as the reader is oriented on the issue or concern.

    The literature review serves as an attempt to answer the questions posed in the early part of the research paper, but of course, it is unable to do so because the review should 1) point out the “gap” in knowledge, 2) show the insufficiency of current literature to resolve or convincingly explain the phenomenon in question, or 3) merely describe what attempts have been done so far to explain the phenomenon.

    Step 3. Link the paragraphs.

    The next step is to link together the different paragraphs using introductory statements before the paragraph and end with concluding statements. You may add transition paragraphs in between the descriptions of studies to facilitate the flow of ideas.

    Step 4. Write your opening and closing paragraphs.

    At the beginning of the Literature Review section, add a paragraph that explains the content of the whole write-up. This will serve as the reader’s guide on what he expects to read in the review. End with another paragraph that briefly summarizes the evidences that support the thesis of the research paper.

    Writing the literature may be difficult at first, but with careful planning, practice and diligence, you can come up with a good one. Once you’re done with your literature review, more than half of your thesis writing task is already done.


    Ashton, W. (2015). Writing a Short Literature Review. Retrieved on January 6, 2015 from

    ©2015 January 6 P. A. Regoniel

    Environment Environmental Issues

    Water Pollution: Sources, Transport and Distribution of Heavy Metals

    Heavy metals are considered as persistent water pollutants. Where do heavy metals come from, and how are these toxic substances transported and distributed? This article reviews several literature along these concerns.

    The introduction of substantial chemical, physical or biological material into the coastal zone from land-based sources due to industrialization as well as natural processes such as land erosion affects the organisms living in it. This is so considering that the process involves discharge of insidious and persistent toxic pollutants such as pesticides, heavy metals and other nondegradable and bioaccumulative chemical compounds.

    The potential hazard to the marine environment of pollutants depends mostly on their concentration and persistence. Persistent pollutants, such as heavy metals, can remain in the environment unchanged for years (Guzman and Jimenez, 1992). These heavy metals eventually find their way into the tissues of marine organisms as a result of ingestion.

    Continuous uptake of heavy metals would lead to an increased concentration in the organisms’ tissues (bioaccumulation) until a saturation point is reached where these metals would interfere with an organism’s vital functions.

    Sources of Heavy Metals

    In particular, the kinds of heavy metals incorporated in sewage outputs to the aquatic ecosystem vary widely. These are determined principally by the nature of pollution sources whence these metals came.

    Possible pollution sources identified by Guzman and Jimenez (1992) include:

    1. point sources such as refineries, power plants, ports, dockyards, domestic and industrial sewage;

    2. non-point sources such as domestic and industrial sewage, agriculture activities, soil erosion; and

    3. unpredictable point sources (e. g. oil waste at sea by tankers, major oil spills.

    Discharges of oil at sea by tankers, the use of antifouling and anticorrosive paints to protect vessels and structures, oil spills during shipping and terminal transfers and effluent discharges from refineries are probably among the anthropogenic sources of lead (Pb), chromium (Cr), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), zince (Zn), cadmium (Cd), and vanadium (V) (Guzman and Jimenez, 1992). Also, all metals are normal components of fertilizers, lime and pesticides (Davies, 1980; Alloway, 1990).

    Transport and Distribution of Heavy Metals

    Owing to the metal’s soluble and particulate nature, heavy metal pollution transcends boundaries. This suggests that a wide range of pollution sources, both natural and anthropogenic, and a very effective mechanism for disturbing metals influence heavy metal transport and distribution (Guzman and Jimenez, 1992).

    Rivers appear to be the most important sources of heavy metals in the sea and they carry much larger quantities of the elements as particulates than they do as solutes (Bryan, 1976). These heavy metals which may initially be deposited in one section of a coast or bay tend to be distributed to other regions because of tidal cycles, mixing of water layers and upwelling (Eslemont, 1999), currents, and occasional strong forces in nature such as typhoons, among others. Natural processes prevailing in particular locations influence the concentration of heavy metals.

    In Darwin Harbour for example, Eslemont (1999) noted that the strong tidal cycle tends to disperse pollutants. Because of these processes, even the pristine coral reefs are influenced by metal pollution, although at lower levels than the other reefs proximate to pollution sources.

    However, the influence of benthic infauna especially on sediment structure, chemistry and transport could not be underestimated. The disturbance of sedimentary deposits by living organisms (bioturbation) could influence sedimentary structure and therefore has important implications for the fate of contaminants. Mazik and Elliot (2000) have demonstrated that there was an increase in bioturbation with increasing distance from the source of pollution.

    Literature Cited

    Alloway, B. J., 1990. Heavy Metals in Soils. Blackie, London (in Guzman and Jimenez, 1992).

    Bryan, G. W. (1976). Heavy metal contamination in the sea. In Marine Pollution (R. Johnston, ed.), pp. 185-302. Academic Press, London (in Guzman and Jimenez, 1992).

    Davies, B. E., 1980. Applied Soil Trace Elements. John Wiley & Sons, New York (in Guzman and Jimenez, 1992).

    Eslemont, G., 1999. Heavy metals in corals from Heron Island and Darwin Harbour, Australia. Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 38, No. 11, pp. 1051-1054.

    Guzman, H. M. and C. E. Jimenez, 1992. Contamination of Coral Reefs by Heavy Metals along the Caribbean Coast of Central America (Costa Rica and Panama). Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 24, No. 11, pp. 554-561.

    Mazik, K. and M. Elliott, 2000. The effects of chemical pollution on the bioturbation potential of estuarine intertidal mudflats. Helgoland Marine Research, Vol. 54, Issue 2/3 pp. 99-109.

    © 2014 June 12 P. A. Regoniel

    Cases Ecosystem Dynamics Research

    Mango Pulp Weevil: A Pest Control Problem in Palawan Island

    This article describes the mango pulp weevil (MPW), Sternochetus frigidus, introduced to Palawan province and discovered in 1987.  The weevil still lingers as a pest control problem that prevents local mango farmers from exporting their agricultural produce in other places. Find out how the MPW looks like and where it grows. A video is included to show how this pest behaves when disturbed and how fast it can move.

    Research still has to find a long-term remedy to the problem of mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) infestation in the province of Palawan in the Philippines where the world-renowned underground river is found.  Pest control approaches by farmers have so far been unable to eradicate the pest at source which finds the edible fleshy part of the mango as its favorite breeding place. Hence, the name mango pulp weevil or MPW.

    The weevil damages a part of the mango pulp thus reduce the quality of the fruit. For more than two decades, mango growers were unable to export their agricultural produce because the mango pulp weevil will threaten the mango industry in other places.

    A post-harvest pest control approach done so far to control the mango pulp weevil include irradiation as quarantine treatment (Padilla 2012). This approach appears to be more economical compared to other post-harvest pest control treatments such as the application of heat and fumigation. Local farmers also apply hit-and-miss approaches to control the weevil at source.

    Morphology of the Mango Pulp Weevil

    How do these pests look like? Below are pictures of the mango pulp weevil.

    mango pulp weevil
    Mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) infesting mangoes in Palawan Island.

    These are two of the four MPWs I have found yesterday upon slicing several fruits from our homegrown mango trees. I can feel that they have a hard texture as I turn them around for the right angles to take photos. The insect is quite small (6mm x 4mm) but switching my Panasonic Lumix LX5 to macro mode enabled me to take extreme close up shots at a distance of less than one centimeter.

    Overall, MPWs have dominant brown color at the underside and an orange dorsal region mottled with dark, charcoal black bands across the pitted wings. Also, the wings have rough tiny keratinous projections that probably aid them in burrowing through the soft pulp upon maturity. The long snout has two antenna with rounded tips.

    Behavior of the Mango Pulp Weevil

    The two samples in the pictures shown previously were found in just one mango fruit, occupying about two centimeters of the pulp next to the seed. Initially, I thought there was only one but upon closer look, another weevil with neatly folded legs sprang to life after a minute or two.

    Below is a video of how fast these pests could walk about. If given the chance, they will fly within a few minutes and enter into a state of suspended animation or diapause. Weevils do not fly great distances but usually stay close to the parent tree until the next fruiting season (Gove et al. 2007).

    Consumers in Palawan can still eat at least half of the mangoes because only one side of the fruit is affected. An alternative way of consuming infested fruits is to flesh out the mango pulp and dry it (dried mangoes). The affected area is normally about 3 cm in diameter.

    Preventive Measures to Control the Pest

    I have not been so keen before on the presence of the mango pulp weevil in the three mango trees we have in our yard. My friend, a City Agriculturist, remarked that I should do something about the mango fruits that fall when ripe as this will infect other healthy mango trees.

    Based on her remark and on the readings I made in writing this article, I recommend that the following measures should be made by consumers or mango owners.

    1. Harvest mango fruits as soon as these are mature.
    2. Remove all fallen fruits and destroy pests in infested fruit. Damaged fruits should be buried at least half a meter below the ground to prevent the weevil from completing its life cycle (Catindig and Heong 2005).
    3. Kill the pest right away when found in mango consumed.
    4. Report to authorities illegal shipments of mango from infested sources.
    5. Undertake indigenous ways to control weevil infestation such as natural fumigation or bagging using newspapers or similar material.

    For researchers, studying local farmers’ practices in controlling mango pulp weevil infestation can help minimize costs associated with pest control specifically the use of synthetic pesticides. Comparing the efficacy of such practices will help identify low-cost techniques or approaches that will reduce, if not eradicate the mango pulp weevil problem.

    Natural pest control measures such as breeding ants that feed on the mango weevil (Renkang and Christian 2007) may also be explored. Are there ants species in Palawan that can qualify as weevil predators? This ecosystem approach, particularly looking at the food web interactions, may be the more viable pest control option.

    Is Banning Mango Export the Answer?

    While banning the exportation of mango fruits from Palawan will prevent pest outbreak in other places, this caused a great loss to mango farmers in the province. Other efficient ways to control the pest must be considered or its economic impact be examined further.

    Moreover, despite the infestation, it seems that only a small percentage of the mango fruits are affected. Without pesticide use, out of 300 mangoes that we have harvested at home, we found only less than 10 fruits with MPW in it. That’s only three percent.

    An economic analysis may be done to look at the actual damage caused by this pest. Banning fruit exportation may not really be the answer. Rather, an effective quarantine measure should be applied.


    Catindig, J. L. A. and K. L. Heong, 2005. Description of mango pulp weevil. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from

    Gove, T.; Joubert; J. P.; and M. S. de Beer; 2007. Literature review on mango seed weevil Sternochetus mangiferae (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). SA Mango Growers’ Association Research Journal 27, 21-28.

    Padilla, L. D. E., 2012. Saving the Phl Super Mango export industry from pulp weevil infestation through irradiation. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from

    RenKang, P. and K.  Christian, 2007. The effect of the weaver ant, Oecophylla smaragdina (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), on the mango seed weevil, Sternochetus mangiferae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), in mango orchards in the Northern Territory of Australia. International Journal of Pest Management, 53(1):15-24.

    © 2014 May 27 P. A. Regoniel


    Generating Your Research Topic: How to Look for the Knowledge Gap

    One of the most difficult things associated with thesis writing is coming up with a good research topic. How can you generate one? What should you do? This article provides a simplified approach to this common concern of those new in the field of research.

    You may find writing the literature review confusing, and feel that you don’t know where to start, as this part of research writing requires familiarity with the research topic being investigated. Familiarity will not happen unless you have read a great deal about what work or progress has been done to shed light to or understand why things happen the way they do, which in science is referred to as a phenomenon.

    The ultimate aim of a review of literature is to provide background information about a phenomenon using existing relevant and reliable or credible literature. Scientists attempt to explain phenomenon, which, as expected, will always show a dearth of information on some aspects and fall short of your expectations. Along the way, as you examine the literature, there will always be questions in your mind, which you try to resolve by reading more – hoping that there will be answers to your questions somewhere. In the end, you will find yourself still looking for answers to your set of questions but find nothing that addresses your curiosity. Have you read enough? There’s a possibility that you might have not read everything, that there may be some literature that you have missed somewhere, somehow.

    So, when should you stop reading relevant literature and conclude that indeed you have reached that point where you are convinced that no one has ever done anything or failed to answer adequately the questions that you have in mind? How can you ensure that you have exhausted available literature such that you are able to declare that there is a GAP in knowledge, and come up with your unique research topic? In reality, this is not an easy task, especially if you are new to the field of inquiry you are in.


    This is the reason scientists specialize or stick to a particular study, research endeavor, or research topic for many years, trying to synthesize all work and fill in the gaps that will help explain phenomenon. The idea is to bring together all work there is available for scrutiny and get useful insights and hindsights – what has been done and what has been left undone. These initiatives should be made known to everyone concerned through peer-reviewed publications. Why peer-reviewed? That is because, persons working along those lines of inquiry will recognize that indeed, what you are doing is something that they do not know about and which they would want to know.

    For all intents and purposes then, your gauge in saying that there is a GAP in knowledge, is to read the work of those scientists or researchers who are recognized authority on those research topics you want to explore. These scientists or researchers publish their findings in reputable scientific journals. What they are saying or have done so far, will serve as benchmark or springboard for further inquiry.

    How will you know that a person is knowledgeable or the authority on a certain topic of inquiry given that you are new in that field? Well, one way to do so is to see if he has other research papers on the same topic available for examination, or probably see his credentials. After all, those in authority in a given field are those who can convince everyone that what he is doing, his arguments, are the most sensible explanation of a phenomenon. But if you have a better idea, then show your evidence. Who knows, your suggestions or propositions are better than anyone else’s.

    © 2014 February 8 P. A. Regoniel


    Five Techniques to Review Related Literature

    A well written, comprehensive and logical literature review demonstrates good scholarship. But many students usually find themselves with only a few articles to figure out their research topic. How will they approach this problem? Here are five techniques to review related literature.

    Greetings to all subscribers!

    The past month had been a hectic one for me as I adjust to my new schedule after a long leave from academic work. I need to handle subjects which require intensive gathering of materials for both syllabus preparation as well as lecture sessions. I was assigned two classes of third year undergraduate students enrolled in Research 01, many of whom have not had any experience on doing research in their high school years. As I introduce the subject to them, bug-eyed students wonder on what the heck I was talking about. Honing research skills such that students are able to do independent research poses a challenge to anyone handling this subject. proved to be a useful site for them, as I encouraged them to visit the site and learn the ropes of research. They were just glad to read something from someone they are familiar with, and even get that opportunity to ask me personally about their concerns. They need not surf and spend so much time online just to get some ideas useful in working out their thesis.

    I asked them to come up with their respective topics, that is, related to their respective fields. This is not easy as it would require a lot of observations and readings to pin down what specific topics they are interested in. To narrow down their frame of mind on what specific topics they need to look into, I gave them the university’s research agenda to guide them along the way. These agenda include climate change concerns for those enrolled in environmental science and alternative approaches to common ailments for those taking biology.

    To get a better view of the topics the students are interested in within the agenda mentioned, they should read related literature about those topics. So how should they go about it? Below are five tips that can prove helpful.

    Five Techniques to Review Literature

    1. Visit open access journals.

    One of my favorite open access site where I can download literature on many topics in environmental science is In this site, there are full papers available for free download. You just need to be patient as you browse the site using your keyword. Elsevier also has a list of open access journals here.

    There are many other open access journals if you have the time and the patience to do surfing. While these may be free, you will notice that your choices are limited. And you also need to be aware that there are open access journals which are predatory, meaning, it seeks to exploit or oppress others. Beal provides a comprehensive list of these questionable journals. It will always help if you read some reviews before spending your valuable time on those listed, especially if you intend to publish your research output.


    If you have no better choice and can spend ample time to look for those articles which you believe can help you develop your research topic, open access journals are the default choice at least for a start. Verify if your library has paid subscriptions to popular scientific journals which offer more choices. This will cut down time for you to be able to understand current research and establish the state of the art.

     2. Ask a professor for copies of their article collections.

    One MS student approached me the other day asking if I have literature on community based resource management. Indeed, her inquiry bore fruit as I subscribe to a biannual environmental science journal. I lent her six issues and she was so grateful for the help.

    Don’t hesitate to approach someone who might be working on something similar to your line of interest. Almost always, there’s a pile of literature he can share with you so you can quickly browse the topics.

    3. Join sites where scientific articles are shared.

    One of the growing websites that many scientists join is A colleague reminded me that is a good source of scientific articles, because some generous scientists upload and share their articles for everyone to peek into and possibly include in their list of related literature. You may also write those scientists who might be interested in your proposed investigation. I uploaded an article in portable document format (PDF) myself and I noticed high traffic on that single article alone. Now, boasts 7,133,903 member researchers.

    4. Visit relevant government offices.

    A trip to government offices who usually have mini-libraries store information on office programs, projects, and activities plus other informative materials for public use can help you enhance the quality of information in your study area’s profile. Statistics on demographics, detailed maps, and recent public service initiatives are commonly found in these offices.

    Research is meant to improve the quality of human life, and the government is tasked to provide welfare to the general public. Thus, you can orient your research to address issues and problems that were already identified in such government offices.

    If your study is about the environment, then the sensible choice is the environment agency of the government. You can help improve on or enhance current environmental policy using identified issues and concern on the environment as government employees interact directly with local communities. Surely, your research will be appreciated by policy makers.

    5. Replicate yourself.

    Why do the literature by yourself when you can engage the help of others — for a fee, of course. I did this when I was conceptualizing my research topic. I learned that there was a group of graduate students who offered to do the literature review for a fixed rate. They do all the legwork, i.e., scrounging the libraries and finding relevant materials based on my set of keywords and problem statement. That surely saved me a lot of time while I narrow down my research topic using my collection of related literature. The added material will strengthen my arguments and/or redefine the direction of my investigation.

    If you prefer to do things online, see the most common types of sources in a research paper.

    © 2014 February 17 P. A. Regoniel

    Health Research

    How Research Translates Into Health Guidelines

    The US Government recommendations for better health arise from research findings. A systematic review of literature helps form guidelines on diet and exercise that the public can adopt for better health. Learn the recommendations.

    I just finished a free online course titled Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health offered through by the University of Pittsburgh. It was a six-week course with two modules to finish each week.

    Although I was a bit behind by a week, I tried to keep up with the reading assignments and quizzes to complete the 11-module course. An optional forum is provided to give feedback on the course or interact on posts written by fellow students or courserians who come from various parts of the world. I learned there were 70,000 of us who joined since the online course’s commencement on July 15, 2013.

    What I really appreciate about this course is its science-based approach to health. For every recommended physical activity or diet, there is a corresponding research to back it up. A comprehensive review of research literature point out findings that support diet or physical exercise recommendations.

    Here is a summary of what I have learned from the course.

    Diet and exercise approach for better health

    If you intend to manage your weight and reduce the risk of getting chronic, diet-related diseases like cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, stroke, and diabetes, then the best approach should be to implement both a diet and exercise program. Much will be gained from having a balanced diet and more could be achieved if this is coupled with regular exercise.

    What is the recommended diet?


    To maximize the benefits of diet, it is important that you should be able to track down your energy or food intakes each day. You should list down how much and what kinds of food you ate. This requires counting the calories derived from food. This simple daily record will give you an insight on the kind and amount of food in terms of calories that will help you manage your diet.

    All of the food consumed do not get burned for energy. The body will use up only a specific amount of calories to carry on the daily activities. The rest gets either excreted as waste or stored as fat. You should be concerned about overeating because if you take more than enough, the excess gives that added weight unless you do something to get rid of it. It is here that exercise plays a role.

    There are a specific amount of calories needed for maintenance of body weight for the different food groups namely carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The same goes for optimal quantities of vitamins and minerals to help absorb and regulate food in the body.

    The whole point is that you should first understand your diet through consistent monitoring and from there design a diet that will give you just enough amount and kind of food required for weight maintenance. This means more of fibrous food and less of trans and saturated fats which are obtained easily from food.

    What is the recommended amount of exercise?

    The recommended amount of exercise to maintain weight is at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate exercise per week. Ideally, this should be spread at a minimum of three times a week or better still, four to five times a week. This means at least 50 minutes of exercise if you opt for a three times a week exercise program or 30 minutes per session if you decide to exercise five times a week.

    According to studies, more exercise is better. For best results, 250 minutes of moderate exercise per week is recommended. My exercise program is just okay as I do 41 to 44 minutes of vigorous exercise, that is, running a six kilometer distance three times a week. I just need to adjust my calorie intakes because my weight is between obese and normal based on a body mass index (BMI) of 25.9.

    If you want to learn more about the health benefits of exercise, download the 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans.

    To measure the amount of calorie intake based on your food as well as your progress in your physical activity, use SuperTracker, a free online tool to track an individual’s diet and physical activity.

    © 2013 September 2 P. A. Regoniel