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HIST 410 (Shetler Fall 2015)

Finding the scholarly conversation

You should have an idea of some of the secondary sources that you’d like to use in your literature review. Since the purpose of a literature review is to situate your work in a particular context of the field and to engage an existing conversation in and about that context, one of the aspects of your sources which you need to explore is the responses and engagement they have already garnered. To that end, we’ll explore two methods of finding secondary sources which build on or interact with your existing sources in some way: searching for book reviews and searching for sources which have cited a source.

Searching for book reviews
(for books and (sometimes) book chapters)

If your source is a book (or sometimes a book chapter), one way to understand the position of your source in the field is to find scholarly reviews of it. Scholarly reviews are generally several paragraphs (or even pages) long and appear in reputable, peer-reviewed journals in a relevant field. The simplest way to find such reviews is to search the library catalog.

  1. Put in the title of the book followed by the author's name into the catalog search box on the Good Library webpage.

    Search tips:

    • Use as much of the title as possible but avoid the punctuation. Example: "What to do?: Choices to make" should be searched as "What to do choices to make"

    • Use quotes around the title, especially if the title uses the words 'and', 'or', or 'not'. Example: "To be or not to be a study of Hamlet"

    • Add the author's last name to your search string but make sure the name is outside of the quotes. Example: "Where the wild things are" Sendak

    • Avoid using middle names or initials. Example: "Eye for an eye" by William Ian Miller should be searched as "Eye for an eye" william miller

  2. Once you get your search results, on the left side, under "Format", click on Article/Chapter.

Note: You'll probably get a lot of duplicates in this search, but they won’t always show up with the same title and author information (which is why the catalog can’t eliminate them for you). Look carefully at the journal information for each source to find duplicate entries. For instance, using the last example search above, you might get results that look like this:

Duplicate results with different titles and authors.

Even though the first two results have very different titles and apparently different authors, by inspecting the journal information, we see that they are actually the same review.

Searching for sources which have cited a source
(for all kinds of sources)

For a scholarly source, it’s relatively easy to find out what sources the author has used—you check the bibliography. But that only lets us look back at the conversation in which the author positioned themselves, it doesn’t give us any insight to the conversation which has formed around our source. An easy way to discover works which have cited our source is to use the “Cited by” feature in Google Scholar.

  1. Put the title of the article or work into the search box on Google Scholar and click the search button.

  2. Click on the "Cited by {some number}" link below the entry for the source. Voilà! You’ll have a list of other works (but almost certainly not all the works) which have cited your source.

    The position of the 'Cited by' link in a Google Scholar search result.

    Note: Sometimes Google Scholar doesn’t have information about works which have cited your source. If that happens, talk to a librarian about alternative searching methods.