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Ed.D. Research • Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies: Literature Review  

Library resources for Ed.D. research, locating dissertations, and an introduction to the library mentor program.

Exploring the literature review 

Literature Review Model: 6 Steps

literature review process

Adapted from The Literature Review, Machi & McEvoy (2009, p. 13).

AU Librarians & your literature review


Right arrowGetting Started:  Review the tabs in this section to explore how Archer Librarians and Library resources can help support you and your research during the literature review process.

1. Select a Topic

"All research begins with curiosity" (Machi & McEvoy, 2009, p. 14)

Selection of a topic, and fully defined research interest and question, is supervised (and approved) by your professor. Tips for crafting your topic include:

  • Be specific. Take time to define your interest.
  • Topic Focus. Fully describe and sufficiently narrow the focus for research.
  • Academic Discipline. Learn more about your area of research & refine the scope.
  • Avoid Bias. Be aware of bias that you (as a researcher) may have.
  • Document your research. Use Google Docs to track your research process.
  • Research apps. Consider using Evernote or Zotero to track your research.

Consider Purpose

What will your topic and research address?

In The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students, Ridley presents that literature reviews serve several purposes (2008, p. 16-17).  Included are the following points:

  • Historical background for the research;
  • Overview of current field provided by "contemporary debates, issues, and questions;"
  • Theories and concepts related to your research;
  • Introduce "relevant terminology" - or academic language - being used it the field;
  • Connect to existing research - does your work "extend or challenge [this] or address a gap;" 
  • Provide "supporting evidence for a practical problem or issue" that your research addresses.

★ Schedule a research appointment

At this point in your literature review, take time to meet with a librarian. Why? Understanding the subject terminology used in databases can be challenging. Librarians can help you structure a search, preparing you for step two.

2. Search the Literature

Collect & Select Data: Preview, select, and organize

Archer Library is your go-to resource for this step in your literature review process. The literature search will include books and ebooks, scholarly and practitioner journals, theses and dissertations, and indexes. You may also choose to include web sites, blogs, open access resources, and newspapers. This library guide provides access to resources needed to complete a literature review.

Books & eBooks: Archer Library & OhioLINK

Databases: Scholarly & Practitioner Journals

Expand your journal search; a complete listing of available Archer Library and OhioLINK databases is available on the Databases  A to Z list. Search the database by subject, type, name, or do use the search box for a general title search. The A to Z list also includes open access resources and select internet sites.

Databases: Theses & Dissertations

Review the Dissertation Resources tab on this guide, it includes Theses & Dissertation resources. Archer library also has AU student authored theses and dissertations available in print, search the library catalog for these titles.

Did you know? If you are looking for particular chapters within a dissertation that is not fully available online, it is possible to submit an ILL article request. Do this instead of requesting the entire dissertation.

Newspapers:  Databases & Internet

Consider current literature in your academic field. Archer Library's database collection includes The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Wall Street Journal.  The Internet Resources tab in this guide provides links to newspapers and online journals such as Inside Higher Ed, COABE Journal, and Education week.

Search Strategies & Boolean Operators


There are three basic boolean operators:  AND, OR, and NOT.


Used with your search terms, boolean operators will either expand or limit results. What purpose do they serve? They help to define the relationship between your search terms. For example, using the operator AND will combine the terms expanding the search. When searching some databases, and Google, the operator AND may be implied.

Overview of boolean terms

Search results will contain all of the terms. Search results will contain at least one of the search terms. Search results do not contain the specified search term.
Search for adult learning AND online education; you will find items that contain both terms. Search for adult learning OR online education; you will find items that contain either adult learning or online education. Search for adult learning NOT online education: you will find items that contain adult learning but not online education.
AND connects terms, limits the search, and will reduce the number of results returned. OR redefines connection of the terms, expands the search, and increases the number of results returned.
NOT excludes results from the search term and reduces the number of results.
Example Search: Education Research Complete


Adult learning AND online education: 883 results


Adult learning OR online education: 102,824 results


Adult learning NOT online education: 14,760 results

About the example search: Boolean searches were conducted on July 7, 2022; result numbers will vary at a later date. No additional database limiters, such as article type or date range, were set to further narrow search returns.

Database Search Limiters

Database strategies for targeted search results.

Most databases include limiters, or additional parameters, you may use to strategically focus search results.  EBSCO databases, such as Education Research Complete & Academic Search Complete provide options to:

  • Limit results to full text;
  • Limit results to scholarly journals, and reference available;
  • Select results source type to journals, magazines, conference papers, reviews, and newspapers
  • Publication date

Keep in mind that these tools are defined as limiters for a reason; adding them to a search will limit the number of results returned.  This can be a double-edged sword.  How? 

  • If limiting results to full-text only, you may miss an important piece of research that could change the direction of your research. Interlibrary loan is available to students, free of charge. Request articles that are not available in full-text; they will be sent to you via email.
  • If narrowing publication date, you may eliminate significant historical - or recent - research conducted on your topic.
  • Limiting resource type to a specific type of material may cause bias in the research results.

Use limiters with care. When starting a search, consider opting out of limiters until the initial literature screening is complete. The second or third time through your research may be the ideal time to focus on specific time periods or material (scholarly vs newspaper).

★ Truncating Search Terms

Expanding your search term at the root.

Truncating is often referred to as 'wildcard' searching. Databases may have their own specific wildcard elements however, the most commonly used are the asterisk (*) or question mark (?).  When used within your search. they will expand returned results.

Asterisk (*) Wildcard

Using the asterisk wildcard will return varied spellings of the truncated word. In the following example from Education Research Complete, the search term education was truncated after the letter "t."


Original Search Search with Asterisk
adult education adult educat*
Search results:  32,211 Search results: 32,333
Results included:  educate, education, educator, educators'/educators, educating, & educational

Explore these database help pages for additional information on crafting search terms.

★ EBSCO Databases & Google Drive

Tips for saving research directly to Google drive.

Researching in an EBSCO database?

It is possible to save articles (PDF and HTML) and abstracts in EBSCOhost databases directly to Google drive. Select the Google Drive icon, authenticate using a Google account, and an EBSCO folder will be created in your account. This is a great option for managing your research. If documenting your research in a Google Doc, consider linking the information to actual articles saved in drive.

EBSCO Databases & Google Drive

EBSCOHost Databases & Google Drive: Managing your Research

This video features an overview of how to use Google Drive with EBSCO databases to help manage your research. It presents information for connecting an active Google account to EBSCO and steps needed to provide permission for EBSCO to manage a folder in Drive.


About the Video:  Closed captioning is available, select CC from the video menu.  If you need to review a specific area on the video, view on YouTube and expand the video description for access to topic time stamps.  A video transcript is provided below.


Defining Literature Review

What is a literature review?

A definition from the Online Dictionary for Library and Information Sciences.

A literature review is "a comprehensive survey of the works published in a particular field of study or line of research, usually over a specific period of time, in the form of an in-depth, critical bibliographic essay or annotated list in which attention is drawn to the most significant works" (Reitz, 2014). 

A systemic review is "a literature review focused on a specific research question, which uses explicit methods to minimize bias in the identification, appraisal, selection, and synthesis of all the high-quality evidence pertinent to the question" (Reitz, 2014).

Further Reading

About this page


EBSCOhost [Help page]. (n.d.). Searching with wildcards and truncation symbols. Retrieved November 5, 2019 from

EBSCOhost [Help page]. (n.d.). Booleans. Retrieved November 5, 2019 from

Machi, L.A. & McEvoy, B.T. (2009). The literature review. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press: 

Ridley, D. (2008). The literature review: A step-by-step guide for students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Reitz, J.M. (2014). Online dictionary for library and information science. ABC-CLIO, Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from



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