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Naval Architecture & Ocean Engineering

Use this guide to find books, articles, reports and websites related to naval architecture and ocean engineering

Get the Gouge on Literature Reviews

What’s a literature review?

From J. Zobel’s  “Writing for Computer Science”:

“A literature review is a structured analysis of a body of literature, and may cover work from several separate areas of research. This review is not simply a list of these papers. Rather, the papers should be grouped by topic, and critically discussed in a way that allows the reader to understand their contribution to the field, their limitations, and the questions that they leave open.”

It is not:

  • An annotated bibliography
  • A summary of papers
  • A book report

Why do we do literature reviews?

  • To demonstrate an understanding of a topic and the context surrounding it
  • To synthesize (or bring together) different pieces of information on a topic
  • To highlight where your research fits in with what’s been done before

Who can I contact for help with a literature review?

In addition to your professors and advisors:

What’s "the literature"?

When we talk about “the literature” we mean:

Searching Tips

What am I looking for?

You’re looking for literature on:

  • Major relevant works on your topic
  • Studies that respond to or build on those papers
  • Information that gives context to your research
    • A specific type of paper called a review article can be helpful here. Instead of reporting the results of an experiment, they synthesize what is known about a topic (sound familiar?). Often they have “review” in the paper title—see the first search result on page 3 as an example.

You aren’t looking for everything that’s ever been published on your topic.

Where do I search for the literature?

Finding additional relevant papers

Some databases will have a Cited By link under search results. This tells us how many other papers included that paper in its references list. This helps identify research that has received much attention from other scholars.

Prepare for your Literature Review

Find a citation manager

Citations managers store your citations and output in-text citations and bibliographies formatted in specific styles. Pick one you like or one your advisor uses. Zotero and Mendeley are two popular options.

Create a research log

A research log can help you:

  • Frame your thinking and kickstart your synthesis
  • Take efficient notes
  • Pick out the most important and relevant information from your readings
  • Provide evidence of work for your advisor

A sample research log template is available for you to copy and edit to work best for your purposes.

Get an interlibrary loan account

Interlibrary loan (ILL) is a service through which you can request books and articles that aren’t in the Nimitz Library collection. It is free to use. New users should register at the First Time User Registration link. Watch a short explainer video for more information.

I Have a Paper, Now What?

The structure of a paper can tell us where to find certain information. Many research articles follow a similar structure.


What did the authors do (big picture)?

Why did they do their research?


How did they do their research, often step by step?


What happened when they did their research?


What did they learn from their research? How did they interpret the results?

Tips for Reading

First, consider your purpose for reading—what information are you looking for? Your research log can help answer that question.

Then examine the title, authors and publication date.

Next, read the abstract and keywords.

If the article looks promising, skim the parts most relevant for your purposes. This will usually include the discussion/conclusion, introduction, results and related figures. The reference list helps point you to other relevant papers. 

An efficient way to approach an article is to read the sections out of order and focus on the parts most relevant to your purpose for reading. Don’t forget to take notes!

If the article doesn’t look promising, skip it!