What is a literature review?

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  • 1. WHAT IS A LITERATURE REVIEW?
    • A place to make connections between what you are investigating and what has already been investigated in your subject area
    • A place to engage in a type of conversation with other researchers in your subject area
    • A place to identify previous research on the topic
    • A place to show there is a gap in the literature which your study can fill
    • A place from which to begin your own investigation
    Ridley, D. (2008). The literature review: A step-by-step guide for students . London: Sage Publications, p. 2.
  • 2. SIMPLY PUT…
    • Helps you and your readers understand:
      • What you know about your topic
      • What other people know about your topic
        • What research has been done
        • How research was done
      • Where are the gaps?
      • Jumping off point for your study
  • 3.  
  • 4. HOW TO BEGIN? FINDING APPROPRIATE SOURCES OF INFORMATION
    • Know what is appropriate:
      • Scholarly, academic, peer-reviewed material
      • Material that presents empirical data/evidence to back up claims, not just opinions
      • Material that presents an introduction, purpose, background literature, method, procedures, findings, discussion, implications, conclusion
    • Know where to begin searching:
      • Book catalogues
      • Library databases – Education Research Complete, ERIC, Academic Search Premier, Sage Journals Online
  • 5. WHERE TO START?
    • BOOKS
    • They gather a lot of information on one topic in one place.
    • They can provide a good overview or good background information on a topic.
    • They often offer extensive bibliographies.
    • Look for encyclopedias or handbooks for info on key theories and researchers
        • E.g. Encyclopedia of the social and cultural foundations of education
      • E-books
    • JOURNAL ARTICLES
    • Journal articles discuss one perspective.
    • Each article makes a unique contribution.
    • Articles can supplement information found first in books.
    • Articles can offer more up-to-date information.
  • 6.
    • FINDING JOURNAL ARTICLES
    • Use library databases
    • Try Google Scholar
  • 7. SEARCH TIPS
    • Recommended databases: Education Research Complete ; ERIC@ Scholarsportal , Academic Search Premier
    • Tips:
      • Limit to scholarly (peer reviewed) journals
      • Look for descriptors (or subject headings) for more focused results
      • Use research methodology in your search terms
      • “ Get it” button looks for the full text throughout all of the Library’s databases
  • 8. SEARCH TERMS
    • Try adding “literature review”
      • you will see examples of lit reviews, plus get an overview of some aspect of your topic
    • Or “narrative” or “quantitative” etc.
  • 9. FOR MORE HELP…
    • Visit the Graduate Education Research Guide
    • See the Help pages
    • Contact the Library Help Desk
      • 905-688-5550 x. 3233 or use email form
    • Contact your liaison librarian:
      • Jennifer Thiessen (phone, chat, email)