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Education: Literature reviews

Review articles

Review articles synthesize current research on a specific topic. It usually:

  • summarises past research
  • identifies important authors in the field
  • outlines recent advances
  • point to gaps in a body of knowledge and
  • is well cited.

It does not report on original research!

Review articles are therefore a fantastic resource if you're looking for an overview of a particular topic or if you're looking to write a literature review. To write a lit review, you need to know the latest developments in the area, the major authors of that particular field and the most current/up-to-date information in the field.  All these can be answered by reading some reviews.

And because review articles are well-cited, they are often a great place to start your research and get aquainted with the topic. 

A review article is similar to a literature review and is therefore useful when writing up a literatue review.

How to find literature reviews

If you are looking for examples of published literature reviews, there are a few basic techniques you could use:

  • Search the library catalogue using your topic keywords and the term "literature review" or "review of the literature" eg

                                    "early childhood education" AND "literature review"

  • Some databases (eg ProQuest, ERIC,PsycINFO etc) allow you to search on "reviews" or "literature review" under document type.  Do a topic search, then refine your results to "reviews" or "literature review" by clicking in the box next to 'document type'
  • Search review journals such as Annual Reviews as these tend to focus specifically on reviews only

Tips

Here is a list of important tips that you might want to note when undertaking a literature review:

  • Engage in an effective and comprehensive literature search
  • Use the major publications in the field - there are so many articles available on your research topic. You need to be selective in what you use, so select the best in that field
  • Ensure you critically evaluate the literature; don't just summarize it!
  • References - keep bibliographical records of all sources referred to

Theses

Before starting your literature review, you may wish to look at a sample of theses.  Printed theses are housed at JCPML (John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library - on Curtin campus) while others are available online through eSpace. For more information, check out the library website on Theses