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Writing a Research Proposal @ Pitt: Literature Review

This guide is designed to assist students or those with limited experience in writing a research proposal for scientific research.


For researching your proposal your best resources will be the research article databases focused on your subject area. Find a specific database by its title or look at a list of databases for a particular subject area.

Search Engines

Search engines search broadly across the web. Remember that links to full text will only work if the article is freely available or if the ULS subscribes to the article and you are searching through the Pitt network or have been authenticated through Pitt Passport.

Why do a literature review?

A thorough review of the relevant literature is an important part of your preparation for writing a proposal. It plays several critical roles.

  • Don't reinvent the wheel. You won't get credit for proposing work that has already been reported.
  • Develop the context of your research. Show how your work grows from or relates to work that has already been done.
  • Establish the significance of your research. Show how your work will fill a gap or push forward research in a new direction.
  • Refine your idea and approach. Gain new ideas or clarify your thinking about what you need to do or how best to do it.
  • Identify the literature you will cite. You must cite the key sources used in developing your proposal.

The links on this page can help you find resources for doing your literature search.


Search PITTCat+ for articles, books, & more



PITTCat+ is the gateway searching tool for all of the materials owned by the University Library system (ULS), including articles, books, e-books, journals, e-journals, e-audio and e-video, digital images, government documents, microfilm and movies.


Searching PITTCat+

Enter your search terms and click on the Search Library button. PITTCat+ will offer correct spellings, and search for variations of our search terms. 

The Result List will include articles, books, e-materials, and images. Click on the title of an item for more detailed information about the item, such as an abstract or the shelf location for a book. If full-text content is available, you can get the full-text by clicking on the item title or the "full text online" link. 

You can Refine Your Results by using the options on the left. Narrow your results to items in the catalog, a specific campus, format, publication date, limiting to scholarly information, and more.

If Full-Text Content is available, you can get the full-text by clicking on the item title or the "full text online" link.


Access Our Library Anywhere!

Pitt Passport Login Image

Access to full-text library resources from off-campus is easy! 

Search as you normally do, click on the link to full-text, log in with your Pitt email login and password, and you're good to go for your entire searching session! Access will work best if you stay in the same browser.

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