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