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Resources for Geosciences Graduate Students

Finding Reviews

What is a literature review?

  • An account and evaluation of studies related to your topic
  • Found in theses & dissertations, primary journal articles, reports
  • May be published as book chapters or review articles

The University of Guelph Library has an excellent short guide about writing literature reviews.  It is also available to print as a pdf (see below).

For information about other types of reviews, see the guide for Systematic Reviews & Other Syntheses.

What are the possible goals of a literature review?

1. Overview of a particular topic – the state of knowledge
2. Identifies problems/controversies about a particular topic – raises questions, but doesn’t  necessarily answer them
3. Historical account - the chronological development of a particular field of study
4. Theory evaluation – are theories valid?
5. Development of new theory

From: Baumeister, R.F. & M.R. Leary.  (1997) . Writing Narrative Literature Reviews.  Review of General Psychology, 1(3): 311 – 320.


H. N. Pollack.  The Heat Flow from the Continents.  Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  1982, 10: 459-481.  (Contains goals 1-4)

Paula F. Baillie-Hamilton. Chemical Toxins: A Hypothesis to Explain the Global Obesity Epidemic.  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2002, 8(2): 185-192.  (Most notably, goal 5)

Felipe I. Durán del Valle A Numerical Investigation of Stress Path and Rock Mass Damage in Open Pits (master's thesis). 2017.  Queen's University, Kingston, Canada.  (Note that Chapters 2 and 3 each function as a separate review.  See Table 2.3 on p. 24 for an excellent summary of key papers.)

David W. Eaton, Erick Adam, Bernd Milkereit, Matthew Salisbury, Brian Roberts, Don While, James Wright.  Enhancing base-metal exploration with seismic imaging. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 2010, 47(5): 741-760.  https://doi.rog/10.1139/E09-047  (This paper is part of a Special Issue on the theme Lithoprobe – parameters, processes, and the evolution of a continent)

“The purpose of this paper is to review some of the numerous contributions made by Lithoprobe toward the development of seismic technology for deep mineral exploration.  We will begin with a brief overview of the petrophysical basis for this technique, i.e., why base-metal deposits are expected to produce strong seismic reflections and (or) scattered signals.  Next, we will consider case studies that illustrate Lithoprobe results, with a view toward both the potential for, and the limitations of, MCS applied to mineral deposit exploration and development.  Lastly, we will summarize a few representative Lithoprobe followup projects, including how these studies fit into the global context and future prospects for MCS survey tetchniques as a cost-effective tool for deep mineral exploration and orebody delineation.”

(Eaton et al, 2010, p. 742)

Analyzing Citations

Review article analysisA quick way to find related research is to check a particular publication's reference list.  It is also possible to find papers that have cited that same paper: use the "cited by" feature that is available in Google Scholar and Web of Science.