Step 1: Build Your Knowledge Foundation First Get summaries from encyclopedias, handbooks and other types of reference material so that you become familiar with your topic before you do the actual research. The knowledge that you gain in this step will help you become a better searcher and will help you recognize relevant material even if authors describe your topic differently.
Step 2: Find Books
Books can either be an in-depth discussion of small area of research or they can be an introduction to a large subject area. Books can be found by using a library's catalog or main search engine.
Step 3: Find Articles and Other Material
Articles in scholarly journals are the primary literature of the sciences - no literature search would be complete without searching for articles. Scholarly articles average 2-20 pages in length and usually report on the results of research experiments. These articles typically have 5 sections:
A short introduction that summarizes the prior research that has been done on this topic (the author must do a literature review in order to write this part)
A description of the methodology and/or instrumentation used in the experiment
Presentation of the data discovered from the experiment
A discussion of what the data means (if this discussion was included in the presentation of data, the article may have a summary or conclusion at this point
List of references found during the literature review
A special type of article, the "review article," can be very helpful when you are doing a literature search. In a review article, the author is not presenting new information about an experiment; instead, s/he summarize the research that has already been done on a certain topic, notes what stills needs to be investigated and reports on what direction current research in that area is taking. In other words, someone may have already done a major part of your literature review for you - if you can find a good review article on your topic, it's a great place to start your research!
The best place to find articles is in your library's main search engine or in specialized indexes that cover the literature, usually in just one subject area.