Literature Review

There are many excellent online guides to doing a lilterature review.  Samples include:

Introducing Summon

The library's new search tool, Summon, allows you to search for books, journal articles, media, and more with a single search. You can access Summon from the library's homepage.  Also try the Advanced Search.

Once you have your results:

To see only BOOKS click on Book/eBook.

To see only JOURNAL ARTICLES click on Journal Article and click on Scholarly & Peer-Review.

Because there will be many results, it is important to narrow your search.  

However, Summon doesn't search everything that the library owns so you will still need to search other resources to find everything that you need. Summon also doesn't let you do sophisticated searches that you may be used to doing in specific databases or the library catalogue.  

Use Summon when starting research on a topic or when you are not sure which databases to use.  

Search the catalogue for books

Use the catalogue to find books, ebooks, government documents, conference proceedings, films and journals.Only the titles of journals are included in the catalogue: use the databases to search for individual articles.

If you know the title of the item you seek, perform a title search.

If you know the author, perform an author search. Enter the author's name with the surname first.

Otherwise, try a keyword search

nonprofit and (leadership or management)

When keyword searching, if a keyword exists in the subject heading or in the title, the resource is much more likely to be about that topic. You can construct sophisticated searches by specifying that your search terms must exist in particular fields of the catalogue record. Prefix the search term with a: to restrict to authors, t: to restrict to titles, s: to restrict to subject headings, and n: to restrict to the notes (where tables of contents are loaded). Or you can partially limit a search. For example:

(philanthropy or nonprofit) and s:canad*

Once you find one or more good books, look at the SUBJECT headings that have been used. Follow those SUBJECT heading links to find related books.

A small sample of Library of Congress Subject headings:

Sample titles

Key Databases:

Good to know:

  1. Within a database, limit your search to scholarly articles when it is appropriate to disregard other resources.
  2. Never limit to full-text only as we may subscribe to the journal you find from another vendor.  Use the Get it! icon to search for the full text when it is not immediately available.
  3. Use available options to search more than one database at a time.
  4. Look for the option to set up an RSS feed  or to Create an Alert.  You are then notified when a new entry is added to the database that meets your search criteria.
  5. Use the Interlibrary Loans RACER form to request items not held at Carleton’s library.  
  6. For additional relevant databases, look at the Subject Guides that best relate to your topic, such as Public Policy and Administration, Philanthropy & Nonprofit LeadershipCanadian Studies, Business, Sociology etc.​

Citation Searching
Use Citation Indexes to find if a particular author and/or paper has been cited by other authors.           

Web of Science    

  • Select Cited Reference Search from top tool bar.
    • You have the article        
      • "Street Credentials and Management Backgrounds: Careers of Nonprofit Executives in an Evolving Sector" by  Suarez, DF (Suarez, David F.)  Nonprofit and voluntary sector quarterly  Volume: 39   Issue: 4   Pages: 696-716   AUG 2010
    • Enter the author in cited author box
      • Suarez, D  (use surname, first initial and truncation symbol)          
    • Retrieve abbreviation of journal name from list provided, and enter year of publication.  NONPROF VOLUNT SEC Q   2010
      • Deselect disciplines not relevant from listing under Citation Databases
      • From the list, select the article and click on Finish Search at the top of the list.
      • Results show the article has been cited 4 times - the most recent in  2013.
  • Note the option Create Alert to be notified of any future citings of this article.


  • Choose Author Seach from top tool bar.
    • Enter author's name and affiliation if known
      • Waters, R.D.
      • North Carolina State University
    • Select displayed result.  On right hand side all published articles by the author will be listed.  Click on article for citing references. "Tweet, tweet, tweet: A content analysis of nonprofit organizations' Twitter updates" by Waters, R.D.,  and Jamal, J.Y.   Public Relations Review  Volume 37, Issue 3, September 2011, Pages 321-324
    • Look to the right hand side of the screen - this article has been cited 6 times.  Click to see the list. 
      • Note #5
      • "Engaging stakeholders through Twitter: How nonprofit organizations are getting more out of 140 characters or less" Public Relations Review  Volume 38, Issue 2, June 2012, Pages 313-318  has been citied 7 times. 
  • Remember to see if a citing article has itself been cited! 

Tips for effective searching -

If you find one relevant article for your reseach it can lead to other relevant papers by the following:

  • using the databases, including Summon, look to find all papers & books published by the author or co-authors
  • explore the bibliography in the paper for sources
  • using Web of Science or Scopus, look for articles that cite the article you found.    Remember, some databases will also list citing articles but those lists are limited to the current database.  The Web of Science and Scopus are more comprehensive, with coverage from multiple databases. 

Grey literature is an important source of information for research in public policy.

Grey literature is defined as "information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing" ie. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body." ICGL Luxembourg definition, 1997. Expanded in New York, 2004


Policy Reports and Working Papers

Think Tanks

Financial data and statistics

Passport search Canada: Country Pulse then using find command, search for charities.
Vividata go to Personal Characteristics --> Personal and Social Views --> Willing to Volunteer


  • taxation data – shows use of charitable deduction  - latest 2009
  • T3010 Returns - Official financial information of charities from Canada Revenue Agency.  Search by charity name.

Stats Canada

Imagine Canada

  • Charity focus -  Information on registered charities in Canada. Search by charity name, directors or keyword using the advanced search option at top right of page.

Qualitative Research at Carleton University

NVivo is a software package that helps with qualitative data analysis.   Go to the Subject Guide: NVivo for information on getting a license, attending a training session and links to online tutorials.

Useful titles:

Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research.  Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sage, 2011
H62.H2455 2011

Sage Dictionary of Qualitative Management Research.  London Sage, 2008.
REF HD30.4.S23 2008

Johnson, Gail, Research Methods for Public Administrators.  Westport, CT, Quorum Bks. 2002
JF1338.A1J64 2002

Silverman, David,  Doing qualitative research : a comprehensive guide.  Los Angeles : SAGE, c2008.
H62 .S472 2008

Content last updated: November 9, 2018