Literature Review Basics:
What it is / Searching / Reading Critically / Pulling it Together
A literature review is a critical analysis of the published research relevant to your topic. It should clearly define the topic of your paper and any specific aspects that you will be focusing on. The final research report assignment in this class emphasizes that the literature review should cover "academic material", which includes mainly academic books and journal articles. Research tools and search tips are covered below. As you read through what you find, you should be reading critically and taking notes, analyzing and comparing the research findings and how they relate to each other. Note the major themes, issues, problems, or gaps in relation to your specific topic. Make sure you record the complete citation details with every source. Write up the review by synthesizing and summarizing what you learned by your analysis of the key sources. Organize the summary around important themes or issues.
Two excellent short guides provide tips on how to do this: Literature Reviews by the Justice Institute of British Columbia, and a University of Toronto guide: The Literature Review: A Few Tips on Conducting It.
Searching for Books:
Library Catalogue / Search Tips / Academic Books / ILL
Starting your research with academic books can be a very effective research strategy. Books can provide a good overview of a topic, its context, and key issues. Edited volumes can bring together the work of the leading researchers on a topic.
Commerce books in the library are generally found on the 2nd floor book stacks, with call numbers starting from HB to HJ. The most efficient way to find books on your topic is to search the Library Catalogue, the first 'Quick Link' on the MTA library website.
To find books on a topic, keyword searching is an easy way to start, but subject searching may also be needed. Click on the Full "Catalog Record" link from the best books found to see the Subject terms used. Click on the subject terms listed to find more books on the topic.
Keyword Searching: (Searches author, title, table of contents where available, subject terms, etc.)
Narrowing a search: Use AND between two or more keywords to find books including both terms:
e.g. women and work
Broadening a search: Use OR to include books with alternate spellings, synonyms, or similar concepts:
e.g. women and (work or employment) -- (Note: use parentheses if combining AND & OR in same search string)
To search for a phrase (two or more words in that order): Use single quotation marks: e.g. 'minimum wage’
(NOTE: This differs from the more standard double quotes used in article databases and search engines including Google)
Use the truncation symbol: "$" to get the root word and all endings: e.g. entrepreneur$ (gets entrepreneur, entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, etc.) (NOTE: This differs from the more standard * used in most article databases.)
As you read through what you find, watch for important books or authors frequently cited, and see if the library has those books. To find books by title click on the “Starts with” button and change the search field from “words or phrase” to “title”: e.g. enter: Gender and the contours of precarious employment
Use the Advanced Keyword search option if you don't know a complete title, or to search with multiple field types e.g. Vosko (in Author field) AND precarious (in Title field)
NOTE: Not all books in the library collection are academic books. To recognize academic books, pay attention to details provided on the author(s) and publisher. Besides university presses, some common academic publishers in this field are: Routledge, Sage, Edward Elgar, Polity Press, etc. Academic books should also be obvious by their content, and by the fact that academic sources are cited.
If the library does not have a book you need, it may be possible to get it through an interlibrary loan. Please see the instructions on how to submit an Interlibrary Loan request.
Searching for Articles
Selecting a Database / Limiting to Academic Journal Articles / Search Tips / Mainstream News / Journal Finder
The MTA Library subscribes to dozens of article databases. These allow you to search for and download articles from thousands of journals, magazines, newspapers, and other sources normally behind paywalls. From the Library homepage, select the Quick Link: "A-Z List of Databases" Select subject: Commerce for a list of the databases with the most business-related content.
Two major business databases are ABI/INFORM Collection and Business Source Premier. Both cover hundreds of the most important academic journals in this field, trade and popular magazines, and more. Both allow you to limit a search to academic/scholarly journals, and even further to peer-reviewed journals, which use the most rigorous form of quality control.
The ABI/INFORM Collection database is just one of several ProQuest databases that will be useful for your topics. For a more comprehensive search click on the "Change Databases" tab at the top of the screen to see and select other useful ProQuest databases which can be searched together. (Note: Some specialized search features may be lost.)
Selecting "ProQuest(All)" from the A-Z List of Databases will also allow you to search the ABI/INFORM Collection and all of the other ProQuest databases together.
Business Source Premier is on the EBSCO platform, which also includes sociology and psychology databases that include many articles on work-related issues. Select the "Choose Databases" tab from within BSP to select additional databases to search.
Use AND to find articles that contain two or more search terms.
Use OR for synonyms or alternative terms.
Phrase searching requires double quotation marks.
The truncation symbol is the asterisk: *
The search field: "Anywhere" in ABI and "All Text" in BSP, may be too broad for finding articles on a topic unless it is very specific. Try searching the "Subject" or "Abstract" fields, or "Anywhere except full text" for a more targeted search.
Use the thesaurus within these databases to help you find the most appropriate search terms.
Follow the "Cited By" links for important articles to see how more recent articles have expanded on ideas.
DO NOT limit results to Full Text documents only! Where the full text of an article is not available as an html or pdf link, these databases include a "Find @ MTA" link which should take you to the article in another database. If an article you need is not available you can submit an Interlibrary Loan request. Most articles requested are emailed to you within a few days.
Evaluate the articles you find using the metadata provided: Read the citation and abstract. Note the terms used in the abstract, and the subject terms assigned. These may also provide clues on how to make your next searches more precise. Important articles may indicate how many times they were cited by more recent articles within the database. Read the content critically.
Use the "Cite" button to select APA format, then copy the citation for any articles you email yourself or download. NOTE: Automatically generated citations may not be accurate; always check. Use an APA guide (see 'Citing Sources' below) if you are unfamiliar with the APA citation format..
Other databases that may include academic articles on your topic include: ScienceDirect, Sage, Taylor & Francis, SocINDEX, and others. Google Scholar can be used to search for academic content across many databases, but you will have to take care to avoid unpublished work (e.g. draft versions of articles, pre-prints, unedited manuscripts, etc.). The "Cited By" links are especially useful in GS because they cover a wider range of sources than in most databases. If you wish to try searching Google Scholar you can maximize its value by setting your profile to connect to the MTA library's subscribed content: Go to Settings -> Library links / Search for “Mount Allison” / Select the option Mount Allison University Libraries and Archives – Find Full Text @ MTA / Save.
Mainstream News Sources are included in various ProQuest databases, including many of the most reliable ones: Canada's national newspaper: The Globe&Mail, transcripts from CBC television news broadcasts, major international news sources well respected for their factual national and international coverage such as The Guardian and The Economist from the UK, and The New York Times and The Washington Post from the US. The major business newspaper in the US: The Wall Street Journal is also included.
Searches in ProQuest can be limited to individual publications, or to subsets of databases.
Lexis/Nexis provides more international news and business sources.
NOTE: The majority of daily newspapers in Canada are owned by a few large corporations or billionaires and have a decidedly conservative, big business slant in their news coverage. (Coverage of the minimum wage increase in Ontario in Jan. 2018 is an example. Well-researched articles in alternative news sources such as The Tyee can be very helpful. See: Media Got the Minimum Wage Story Wrong:Stories about projected job losses rely on outdated economics and ignore substantial expected benefits for workers. By Michal Rozworski )
Journal Finder: If you have identified an important article to read from a book or article's reference list, you can quickly find out if it is accessible by entering the title into Journal Finder (3rd Quick Link on the Library homepage.) If links are provided, select the one that includes the issue you need. Some "open access" articles may be found by googling. If an article you need is not available, you can submit an Interlibrary Loan request.
Government Policy Reports and Stakeholder Reports
Government Sources / Identifying Stakeholders / Reading Critically
Government policy reports are usually identified in media articles, books or other sources, and in the case of recent reports from Canadian, US, and UK governments, can often be found by searching their websites, or by googling, entering the report title in double quotation marks.
You can also search across all Canadian federal government departmental websites by using the search engine at the Canada.ca website, or use the site limiter in Google: e.g. "minimum wage" site:canada.ca (Note: Federal government websites have been transitioning information from canada.gc.ca to canada.ca, over the past few years; searching site:gc.ca may find additional sources from government departments, as well as from agencies, boards, commissions and other types of federal government bodies.)
If you are not looking for a specific, known, document, there are some drawbacks to using search engines: You can get documents out of context with little identifying information, or cached documents that have since been updated and replaced. Search engines like Google cannot get content from within databases, and they do not always find documents that are deep within a large, multilayered website, which most government websites are. With few search options, too many results found, and too few details about them displayed in the results list, it can be very difficult to find the most relevant documents, and of course, a keyword search is only as good as the keywords you use.
For these reasons, it can be very helpful to read secondary sources first and determine exactly what policy documents exist, which level of government, department or agency is the authoring body, and what the titles, or at least the appropriate keywords are. Going to the responsible government body's website and following the links to publications can also be a very effective way to find the most current government policy documents on a topic.
Selected government reports are included in the MTA Library Catalogue, and the ProQuest Canadian Research Index database, but the most comprehensive (although not complete) databases of Canadian government reports are the legislative library catalogues for provincial and territorial governments, and the AMICUS database for Canadian federal documents. The GALLOP Portal is a combined catalogue of federal, and ten provincial and territorial legislative library holdings. It presents the documents found by province. More details and links are on the Government Information Subject Guide -- Canada page under the "Finding Aids" tab.
Government sources such as Statistics Canada are often the most reliable for certain kinds of information. When these are cited, it can be very helpful to check the original source.
Some government sources can be used to identify stakeholders interested in a policy issue. For example: Lobbyist Registries, and Parliamentary/Legislative Committee websites:
Lobbyist Registries: Canadian law requires people who lobby the government to register and declare themselves to the public. The federal Registry of Lobbyists for example, is searchable by lobbyist’s name, organization, subject of lobbying activity, keyword, etc. It shows the corporations, industry groups and individuals involved, and the issues, bills, regulations, policies or programs targeted.
Registries exist in all provinces (except PEI), and in some cities: e.g. Toronto, Ottawa, St. John’s, and all Quebec municipalities. The content of what was said or presented by these groups is not available through these registries.
Government committee websites: In the case of federal parliamentary or senate committees, their webpages on the www.parl.ca website include lists of "witnesses" who provided a written brief, or attended a committee meeting to give their "testimony" and answer questions posed by committee members. See for example the list of stakeholders, their verbatim statements and responses ("testimony"), and links to their written briefs provided for the federal Special Committee on Pay Equity, which met in 2016. (The same kind of information is available on some provincial government sites.)
Reports from stakeholders: Businesses, organizations, industries, and other stakeholders can also be identified by reading about the topic in the media (e.g. news, trade journals, and other sources included in Business Source Premier and the ProQuest databases). Most businesses have trade or professional associations to represent and promote their interests. Industry associations and industry-funded think tanks are paid to represent their industry’s or members' viewpoints and frequently publicize their arguments for or against policy issues in these publications as well as in reports they make available on their websites. Whenever a report is published, it is customary for the organization to put out a press release announcing the report. Google the organization's website to find the report there if a link is not supplied.
Many organizations publish reports on work and labour market issues. To evaluate these documents, it can save time to start by learning more about the authoring or sponsoring organization. Google it to see what investigative reporters and others have said about it. SourceWatch, by the Center for Media and Democracy, is a useful site that provides information on many organizations and corporate front groups. For example, here is the beginning of the SourceWatch entry about MinimumWage.com accessed on January 9, 2018:
MinimumWage.com is a front group operated by Berman & Co. Berman & Co. operates a network of dozens of front groups, attack-dog web sites, and alleged think tanks that work to counteract minimum wage campaigns, keep wages low for restaurant workers, and block legislation on food safety, secondhand cigarette smoke, drunk driving, and more
MinimumWage.com describes itself as "a project of the Employment Policies Institute (EPI)," another Berman front group that was created to "argue the importance of minimum wage jobs for the poor and uneducated." However, Berman and his Employment Policy Institute have been leaders in a national campaign against the minimum wage, that includes TV ads, print ads, op-ed in state newspapers and more.
According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, MinimumWage.com "opposes all federal, state, and local efforts to raise the minimum wage, and promotes misinformation about the consequences of minimum-wage increases."
Other clues to an organization's bias or reliability can be gleaned by reading critically the organization's "About" page, mandate, mission statement, annual reports and other publications, information about the researchers and authors, etc.
Citing Sources and Keeping Track of Sources:
Academic work involves building on existing research, but using others' ideas or words without proper acknowledgement is plagiarism, a serious academic offense. You are expected to credit all sources used for academic work. See the brief guides on avoiding plagiarism under the Research Help tab on the library home page. There are several ways to cite sources. In this course you are required to use the APA citation style. This means using the APA format to cite sources briefly in the text of your paper and more fully in the Reference List at the end. There are several brief guides on the library website that help explain how to do this and give examples for different kinds of sources. See Research Help - APA Style Guides. The full APA Publication Manual is available in the library at: BF 76.7 .P83 REF. and at the Research Help Desk. APA tip sheets that include more business examples are listed on the Commerce Subject Guide Citation & Writing Guides page.
It makes sense to record all the citation details required with every article you save or email to yourself, and with any notes you take from books or other sources, so you don't have to spend time retracing your steps to find missing details.
Zotero is a free, open source software program that allows you to save web pages, pdfs, and other online information sources with automatically generated citation information. It can help you keep track of the information you find, and quickly organizes the citation details into a Reference list in APA format. For instructions on how to download and use Zotero see the MTA Zotero guide.
For research assistance related to this assignment, or other Commerce-related courses, please contact Anita Cannon, Commerce Librarian.
Librarians are also available to help you with your general research questions at the library's Research Help Desk on the main floor, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 364-2564, or on the online chat service. Research Help Desk hours are posted on the library website.
Last updated: 10 January 2019