Cornell University

Catherwood Library

Catherwood Library, Ives Hall, 607-255-5435

Question of the Month

From the Catherwood Library reference librarians

October 2005

PLEASE NOTE: The Reference Question of the Month is kept current only during the month for which it was written. Archived questions will not be updated, and over time may contain inaccurate information or broken web links. We provide archived questions as a service, since much of the information will remain accurate and of continued interest to the ILR community.

Question: Where can I find information on conducting a literature review?

Answer: A literature review is a body of text that aims to review the critical points of current knowledge on a particular topic. Most often associated with science-oriented literature, such as a thesis, the literature review usually proceeds a research proposal, methodology and results section. Its ultimate goals is to bring the reader up to date with current literature on a topic and forms that basis for another goal, such as the justification for future research in the area. (Retrieved from

There are many resources available on the internet and in print to help you conduct a literature review. For graduate students working on a thesis, the most important resource is your graduate committee chair. Also, if you are an ILR student, don't forget to speak with one of Catherwood's reference librarians. They have subject matter expertise and can help you find research materials, as well as show you relevant databases and resources, including RefWorks, an online bibliographic management system. Cornell students can also take advantage of the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, which offers a walk-in tutoring Service.

Online Resources:

Most print resources on research methodology include a chapter on literature review. Including both of these resources which are available in Catherwood.

  • The Handbook of Research Methods in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, HF5548.8.H2653 2002
  • The Sage Encyclopedia of Social Science Research, H62.L456 2004

Or these available from other Cornell Libraries

  • Integrating Research: A Guide for Literature Reviews, H62.C78 1989, Olin Library
  • Writing the Winning Thesis or Dissertation: A Step-by-Step Guide, LB2369.G56 2005, Mann Library

A Guided Keyword Search from the Cornell University Library Catalog, using the terms "research methodology" or "qualitative research" will provide additional results, adding the term "social sciences" to the search will help narrow the results.

We also recommend you look through other thesis. Often your graduate chair will have copies. To find the ILR theses housed in the Catherwood Library:

  • Perform a Guided Keyword Search from the Cornell University Library Catalog.
  • Set Search Limits to retrieve the specific Collection LocationILR Library.
  • You can further limit your results to specific Dates.
  • Use the terms Cornell and thesis.
  • Add other keywords to further narrow your search.

See related question - Who Writes a Thesis at Cornell University.