Skip to Main Content

LDRS 612: Systems Thinking - Writing a Literature Review: Step 1: Getting Started

This guide is designed to help students learn about the components of a literature review as well as the process and library resources/tools to use.

The Research Process

About WSU Krueger Library

Library Hours


Library Front Desk  

Main Email:
Call Us:


Research Assistance

Call Us: 507.457.5146

Clarify the Assignment

Make sure you understand the nature of the assignment by reviewing these questions. Please see the course assignment in D2L/Brightspace.

  • How long (in total pages) should your review be?  4-5 pages (Research log, literature review, annotated bibliography for 6 sources, additional sources do not need annotation).
  • How many sources should be included?  6-10 sources
  • What types of sources (books, journal articles, websites, etc.) are permitted?
              All of the above and at least: 2 scholarly articles, 2 books, 2 trade publications or websites
  • Is there a publication date requirement (for example, published in the last 10 years)? No.
  • Should you summarize, synthesize, or critique the sources? Yes.
  • Should you evaluate the sources? Yes.
  • Should you provide other background, such a definitions or a historical overview?  Yes, and overview of the Baldrige Award Criteria.  Please see the course assignment in D2L/Brightspace.

Types of Articles

Article databases index popular, professional/trade, and scholarly journals (or peer reviewed). Peer reviewed or refereed articles refers to the process in which articles are reviewed by professionals in a field of study before being published. A journal's website should explain the publishing process and if it is peer reviewed or not. Many times, professors use the term peer reviewed and scholarly articles synonymously.


AUTHOR Researcher, scholar, or specialist with expertise in the subject; author's credentials are provided Journalist or staff writer; paid to write articles; may or may not be an expert in the subject Usually practitioners and professionals in the field (has subject expertise)
AUDIENCE Experts, scholars, researchers, professors and students in the field General public       Professionals in the field; may appeal to the general public
PURPOSE In-depth report of original research/findings written by the researcher; communicate scholarship Current events and general interest stories; may report about other's research; to entertain and inform Report current news, trends, and products about a specific industry; share practical information for professionals in the field
TONE Scholarly or technical jargon or terminology Accessible and readily understood by a larger audience. Professional jargon or terminology
REFERENCES Sources are cited in a bibliography, references, endnotes, or footnotes Rare Few, if any, sources cited
REVIEW Refereed or reviewed by scholars in the field Editor Editor
LENGTH Usually 5+ pages; often includes an abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion Usually short, a few pages Usually short, a few pages
ADVERTISING Little to none; occasional ads for professional organizations or publications Numerous ads for a variety of products and services Many ads for products, services, and organizations related to the profession or trade
FREQUENCY Issues published quarterly, semi-annually, or annually Issues published weekly or monthly Issues published weekly or monthly
EXAMPLES Journal of Robotics Journal of Romance Studies Journal of Roman Studies Business Week Rolling Stone Time American Libraries Chronicle of Higher Education Publishers' Weekly
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION A book review or editorial published in a scholarly journal does not fit the criteria for a scholarly article.    

Finding Scholarly Articles

This chart will help you determine whether an article is scholarly or popular in nature.

Faculty usually require scholarly articles for a literature review project.  They may use the following terms interchangably to identify scholarly journals.

  • peer-reviewed articles
  • refereed articles or journals
  • juried articles or journals


Criteria   Scholarly Publication Trade Publication Popular Publication
Author    Researcher, expert or authority on topic Staff writer or industry specialist journalist, popular author, or may not be listed
Advertising  Very little, or highly specialized Highly specialized Significant amount, items with wide appeal
Audience   Scholar or researcher, man have advanced reading level, may have specialized vocabulary Professional in industry or field Basic reading level for a general audience
Bibliography, Works cited List of references for each article May have brief bibliographies Rarely includes a bibliography
Indexing Indexed in specialized databases such as PsycInfo, Sociological Abstracts, etc. Might be found in general or specialized databases Indexed in general databases such as General Reference Center Gold, or Reader's Guide
Level of Language Serious tone, words are specific to a discipline Serious tone, words are specific to an industry Broad and simple language, written for general readers
Purpose information about research in a specific scholarly field practical information for professionals in a specific industry Current events and general interest articles
Review policy Articles are reviewed by peers/experts/scholars in the field editorial board of journal/magazine editorial board are employees of magazine


Harvard Business Review

Behavioral Disorders

College English

Journal of Marriage and the Family

Advertising Age

American Libraries

PC World

Curriculum Review

Educational Leadership




Sports Illustrated

National Inquirer

Contact me for assistance

Profile Photo
Kendall Larson
Darrell W. Krueger Library 122
Winona State University
Winona, Minnesota

Check out OpenRiver Digital Collections!

Choosing a Topic

Once you have a full understanding of the assignment, it's time to choose a topic.  Here are a few general suggestions to get you started.  Additional suggestions are found in Step 2.

  • Choose a strong topic, and one that you are interested in.  Avoid topics that are too narrow, or have little or no published research.  Make sure you are interested enough in the topic to be able to live and breathe it for several months.
  • Brainstorm for ideas.  Write down ideas as they come to mind.  What topics have you studied in class that pique your interest?  Are there issues in your work environment that would be interesting to study?
  • Once you have a list of several potential topics, narrow it down to three, and do some exploratory searching for information on each one.
  • Know when to broaden or narrow the topic.
    • broaden: not finding enough resources
    • narrow: finding too many resources
  • If you are having trouble with the exploratory searches, make an appointment with a librarian for help.
  • You may also want to visit with your professor for help in defining a topic.