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Education : ED 591 Research Design for Classroom Teachers

Resources, information, and news for the education profession

Literature Review

What is a review of the literature?

A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. It is often a part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries. Writing a literature review lets you gain and demonstrate skills in two areas:

  1. information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using manual or computerized methods, to identify a set of useful articles and books
  2. critical appraisal: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies.

A literature review must do these things

  1. be organized around and related directly to the thesis or research question you are developing
  2. synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known
  3. identify areas of controversy in the literature
  4. formulate questions that need further research

Written by Dena Taylor, Health Sciences Writing Centre, University of Toronto

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Primary Research

Primary Research

These are articles in which the authors present a new set of findings from original research after conducting an experimentsurveyinterview, or a case study . These articles usually contain the following parts:

Methods: This section describes the techniques used to execute the research, including the collection of data, and the statistical procedures used. This is usually full of technical jargon, so it can be difficult for non-specialists to read.

A detailed explanation of the method is necessary for two reasons:

(1) other researchers may wish to repeat the experiments to test the findings

(2) the validity of the results depends in part on the techniques and types of analyses used

Results: This section is typically a very technical presentation of the outcome of the research. The results are usually described with the aid of tables, statistical tests where appropriate, and figures and diagrams if necessary.

Discussion: This is where the authors interpret their results in light of previous work in the area. Here the authors must convince the reader of the validity and importance of their findings. Sometimes, ideas for future or follow-up research are included.

References cited: The authors must list all the articles they cited within their own article as the last section of the paper. This is an excellent way to find citations to other related articles

World Cat as a Global Search Tool

WorldCat is the largest network of library resources worldwide.  In searching the WorldCat catalogue, you are finding information about the holdings of almost every library in the United States.

ERIC Hints from Kathy Lowe

Top 10 Favorite Descriptors from the Thesaurus


Academic Achievement

Achievement Gap
Academic performance disparity (as measured by educational indicators such as grades, graduation rates, standardized test scores, college admission, course selection) between or among student groups. The groups may be defined by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, English language proficiency, gender, geographic location, etc.

Predictor variables
Scores or measurements that are used to predict outcomes or to make estimates of other measures -- in research, they describe the characteristics of the sample that are expected to affect the outcome

Reading Achievement

Level of attainment in any or all reading skills, usually estimated by performance on a test (Note: Prior to Jun80, "Reading Level" was occasionally used to index this concept)


At Risk Students
Students considered in danger of not graduating, being promoted, or meeting other education-related goals. Risk factors may include, but are not limited to, socioeconomic status; academic background; behavior, cognitive, or physical problems; family or community environment; and school capacity to meet student needs. Prior to 2008, the Descriptor "High Risk Students" may have been used to index this concept.


Classroom Techniques
Techniques used in the classroom by those in authority (e.g., teachers, aides, administrators) -- may either be directly educational or facilitate educational processes

Teaching strategies
Ways of presenting instructional materials or conducting instructional activities


Computer Uses in Education
The use of computers for instruction, testing, student/pupil personnel services, school administrative support services, and other educational purposes (Note: Use a more specific term if possible -- prior to Aug86, this concept was frequently indexed by "Computer Oriented Programs")

 Technology Integration
Process of making technological tools and services, such as computer systems and the Internet, a part of the educational environment -- includes changes made to the curriculum as well as to educational facilities