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FW 317: Mammalogy (Ecampus)

Doing a literature review requires a certain discipline in searching for information and then analyzing it. This page provides tips and help in finding the information. The reading, summarizing and critical thinking are up to you.

Selecting databases to search

Here are some suggestions for databases to search. 

  • Web of Science   Indexes the major peer-reviewed journals in all fields of science. Represents core life science journals defined as those most often cited in peer-reviewed research articles. Searchable by topic, author, journal name, cited author, and cited journal.

These databases have accessible Help screens that provide tips and advice for effective searching.

Searching a Database

Searching a database

The most effective way to search the online databases is to enter terms or keywords that effectively describe your topic.

  • Use broad, meaningful keywords when you search. Don't use sentences or phrases.
  • Use just a few keywords (1-3). You can always add keywords later if you need to refine your search.
  • Use the facets or limits to help refine you search. For example, you can narrow your search by date or by geographic region.
  • When you review your results, look at the abstracts or subject headings for other keywords you can use to improve your search.
  • Be prepared to do several searches. Research is a process that takes time.

Literature Review Basics

Reviewing the information on a topic means exploring sources, finding relevant articles, books and reports, reading them, and then organizing the issues with and approaches to your topic.

You start by searching appropriate databases including GoogleScholar (Google will be much too broad).  You use databases focused on your discipline to save time and to be sure you get at the majority of the information. Check the list of selected databases on this page.

Take an important paper on a species or topic and use Web of Science to find newer papers that cite that paper. This can help you to find more recent work on similar themes. You could use the species account as a starting point in this type of search, or better yet, use a clearly important paper cited in the species account. You can also do this in GoogleScholar, but the results may not be as comprehensiveHere are the steps.Tiger Skeleton, Royal Natural Hisotry 1893

Tracking Who Cited a Paper:

  • Go to Web of Science.
  • Click on the tab at the top of the screen: Cited Reference Search.
  • Fill in the boxes (Author, Journal TItle and Year) and click on the Search Button.
  • From the list of hits, check the box with the article you want to use.  (Hint: There may be more than one hit for your article, so select them all.)
  • Click on Finish Search.  This will give you a list of all of the articles citing your original article.
  • Email, download or browse the list.


Select a recent paper and use Web of Science to link to all papers referenced by that paper, in case the species account missed something important or you want to discuss research on a similar species that is relevant to your topic. Here are the steps.

Finding What Articles a Paper Cited:

  • Go to Web of Science.
  • Using the paper you have selected, type in the author's last name, date of the article and any other information you have.
  • Click on the Search Button.
  • Click on the title you want from the list of hits.
  • Look closely for References: and click on the number.
  • Email, download or browse the list or references.  You can also click on any of them for more information.

Evaluate Your Source

  • Does the source have a bibliography? This can lead you to other sources.
  • Is there an author listed as part of the citation? Judging authority can be difficult without an author.
  • Is the journal refereed (peer reviewed)?
  • How old is the source? Will this matter for your topic? Currency of information can be important. Some aspects of a topic may need currency more than others.
  • What other terminology is being used either by the author or by the database? Keep an eye out for other words you can use in your search statements.
  • Do the OSU Libraries own the journal (either in print or electronically)? If we don't own it, it will take more time to get your hands on the source.