Tips for planning the literature search

The planning of the literature research is an essential part of a scientific work. In order to make it easier for you to plan this work phase, we have put together all the helpful tips briefly.

Order specialist literature on time. Plan the waiting time for reservations and inter-library loan.

If you find only a few English-language specialized literature on a topic, try using foreign-language research literature.

If you write down the bibliographical references on all copies, you can also identify literature later.

Find out about the opening hours and the possibilities of borrowing from foreign libraries.

If you have questions, contact the library staff.

If possible, please consult your supervisor at the end of the literature search.

Set a binding deadline for the literature search.

The Ponzi scheme refers to a search procedure that searches bibliographies or references / footnotes for appropriate literature. It starts with a concrete source that is relevant to your own topic, and thus encounters interesting references that are of interest for your own scientific work. The snowball system is simple, quickly delivers a variety of relevant literature and can be repeated as often as you like with other sources.

If you want to gain an initial overview of the research literature for your term paper, bachelor thesis or master thesis, the pyramid scheme is a suitable method for literature research. However, you should always keep in mind that you will only find literature that is older than the source. Properly applied, however, reviewing individual bibliographies is an effective way to find a variety of relevant literature.


A student should write a seminar paper on production planning in the production of motorcycles. He knows motorbikes well, but he’s not even good at production planning.

First, he takes a standard textbook, z. B. Wöhe, Introduction to Business Administration. In this work there is an introduction to the production planning on eight pages. He gets such an overview.

A footnote in the textbook attracts his attention. There is a textbook: Sillekens, production planning in the automotive industry (…). He finds this work in the library.

He looks at the bibliography of the textbook and finds the references to an article in a journal. BMW production planning in the Spandau two-wheeler. BINGO!

About the search in the online catalog, the article in the journal would not have been found because the student would not have come up with the idea to search for the term “two-wheeler”. However, the literature search with the snowball system quickly led to the hit.

Current literature as a starting point for the snowball system

As a starting point for the pyramid scheme you should look for a general work such as a lexicon entry, an introductory work or a textbook, which is particularly relevant. There you will find some introductory literature on your topic, with which you can get a first overview. Gradually, you will be able to access more specialized literature for your work through further bibliographies.

With the Ponzi scheme, you will find so much literature that you can not possibly follow any literature. You have to learn to separate the important from the unimportant. When reviewing the bibliography, pay particular attention to literature, which is mentioned again and again. This is an indication that this is particularly important literature on your topic.

The disadvantages of the pyramid system

Despite the effectiveness of the literature search, the snowball system also has disadvantages. With every new bibliography, which one searches, the literature found older. There is also the danger that one gets into a so-called citation cartel, where individual authors quote each other again and again. These authors often belong to a scientific school, but the positions of other scientists are often left out. So be especially attentive if you always use the same names when searching for literature for your term paper, bachelor thesis or master thesis.

Remember, too, that you rely on a foreign literature research in the Ponzi scheme. There is no guarantee that an author has made a careful selection of literature. Perhaps important sources were overlooked.

However, using the Ponzi scheme as one of several methods in the search for literature, choosing especially current source literature and multiple starting points, offers valuable services just at the beginning of the literature search.