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PHYS 806: Literature Review Resources (UNH Durham): 1. Finding Articles and More

Support for graduate literature reviews in physics at UNH.

This Guide

This page primarily supports your literature review with links and reminders, plus general UNH Library information.  For help finding information, getting materials, or in-depth consultations on your specific work, please contact me at any point or Heather Castle in the Physics Library.  Your advisor, committee, other faculty and fellow-researchers are an essential resource as well.

The goal of a literature review is to find the relevant publications on a topic and then summarize and synthesize that information, citing all major sources. A literature review for a thesis or dissertation is defined by your research goals in the broad sense. In conducting and writing the review, you will identify areas where further research is needed, may be able to narrow a research topic, and learn whether a potential thesis topic is novel or unique. The written review should provide the context leading up to your own research, including controversies if any.  Talk to your advisor for help defining your research question, and your librarian for help with searching and locating information resources.

Literature Reviews

Bibliographic Management Software


Zotero is a free, open source bibliographic management tool that operates as an extension of the Firefox browser.   Zotero allows the collection of citations to any kind of material and automatically formats bibliographies in almost any style.  Zotero also has many search, tagging, and note taking features.  Visit the Zotero quick start guide to learn more. 


EndNote is another option, offered through the Web of Science database.  It enables users to collect, organize, and format citations the Web of Science database and other ISI products and to input citations to any other outside matrials.  To register, go into the Web of Science database and click on "EndNote" at the top of the screen.  Endnote accounts can be accessed from any computer at the institution or off-campus through VPN. 

Getting Started

Search strategies

Most searches for unknowns are by topic, using words, or by image.  Searches for known items can incorporate other types of data, such as ISBN's for books, ISSN's for journals, author identifiers (like ORCid), or DOI names.  Words are imprecise but we can work with them.  Some databases, like Inspec, build a thesaurus of terms so that you can investigate and employ the precise language used for indexing technical concepts and objects within that database. 

Think about broader terms, narrower terms, synonyms, different expressions, acronyms, and spellings. Then, try your terms alone or combine them with database fields and/or the strategies below.

Databases vary.  Because of this, the way you input your search will need to vary to be effective.

Usually, looking at examples or hints is all you need, but help and/or tutorials (including YouTube) can make a real difference with complex content, non-Latin alphabets, or specialized interfaces (for example).

Typical techniques for precision? 

  • Search a phrase in quotation marks to retrieve records with the exact string: "coronal mass ejection" 
  • Most commercial databases allow Boolean operators or have them built in: "coronal mass ejection" OR CME
    • Nesting with parenthesis may be supported (check Help):
      • A possible title search example:  review and ("coronal mass ejection" or CME) -- note: the term "review" is not necessarily in the title of all good review articles! 
  • Wildcards:  many databases allow * for right-hand truncation (i.e. any ending):  corona*  -- note: some allow left-hand truncation as well!  Think first; you may get a lot of results!
    • Some also allow ? to replace 0 to 1 character within a word:   STE?M  (retrieves STEM and STEAM)



Selected Databases & Repositories

Find articles with these bibliographic databases and repositories for astrophysics, physics, materials science and related fields:

Print Indexes

For thoroughness and speed, current physical sciences literature reviews often start and stop with online database searching.  However, each database has a particular start date for coverage.  Depending on the resources of your library and the years (or centuries) you need to cover, you may want to consult your librarian or library staff about older print indexes and bibliographies. 


Technical Reports

Engineering & Physical Sciences Librarian

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Heather Castle
33 Academic Way

Kingsbury Hall, room S236

Durham, NH 03824