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HPC 6330 Assessment and Program Evaluation in Student Affair: Lit Reviews, Search Strategies & Annotated Bibliographies

Literature Review

This 10-minute tutorial focuses on what a literature review is and what it means to review the literature.

Tutorial - Literature review:  An overview for graduate students

Searching the Literature: Characteristics and Search Strategies

When you are searching the literature consider the different types of information available.  In addition to specifying your topic you can also specify what type of information you want, e.g. scholarly, current or historical, landmark, seminal, empirical, or others.  This is not a definitive list.  Other categories of information exist. Use these as models for your searching. 

(articles, books or other work):
~ based on original research or experimentation
~ is written by a researcher or expert in the field, who is often affiliated with a college or university
~ most are subjected to a peer review process (experts within the author’s field evaluate the quality and originality of the research as a precondition of its publication). This process (as opposed to an editorial review process) is the factor that sets scholarly journals apart from journals that may otherwise seem quite similar.

~ Not sure if something is scholarly?  Consider these:  Look at the author’s affiliation and credentials.  Is the author affiliated with a university or research organization? Is the publisher reputable?  Is the article long enough to describe the topic thoroughly?  Are references or a bibliography provided?  Is the article peer-reviewed?

"Scholarly" Search Strategies:

Books:  Search by topic

Articles: Most article databases  provide an option to refine results to Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed


~ examining past evidence, events, or progress on a particular subject
~ can show patterns that occurred in the past, over time, and solutions
~ can add perspective to how we examine current events and educational practices

"Historical" Search Strategies:

Books and Articles:  combine your topic with one of these: history, introduction, review, overview

Within the Library Catalog:


Landmark and Seminal:

~ pivotal points in the historical development of a research topic
~ often responsible for framing a particular question or a research tradition
~ may be the original source of key concepts or terminology used in the subsequent literature

"Landmark and Seminal" Search Strategies:

~ consult textbooks or subject encyclopedias providing overviews 
~ articles will frequently note landmark and seminal work; note the authors you see cited repeatedly; search their names for earlier works too

 Books:  in the Library Catalog combine your topic with one of these:  encyclopedia, introduction


Articles:  combine your topic with some of these synonyms:  seminal, landmark, classic, groundbreaking


Encyclopedias:  search for your topic within these encyclopedias and handbooks

Oxford Handbooks Online

Sage Knowledge:  Education titles


~ a method of gaining knowledge by means of direct and/or indirect observation or experimentation
~ empirical research studies support a hypothesis or research question by using empirical evidence, or data that have been collected in the pursuit of knowledge.  Empirical evidence can include qualitative, quantitative or other forms of analysis
~ empirical study articles usually have these:  abstract, introduction/literature review, methodology, results, discussion, list of references

"Empirical" Search Strategies:

Books and Articles: 
Combine your topic with one or more of these synonyms:  study, research, empirical, methodology, results, findings, qualitative, quantitative



Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?  It provides:

  • An account of the research that has been done on a given topic
  • An alphabetical list of research sources
  • Concise information about each source

What does the annotation include?

  • Complete bibliographic information in APA Style 6th edition
  • Main focus or purpose of the work
  • Information on the scope and approach of the work
  • Details on what kind of information can be found in the sourc
  • Usefulness of the source based on the coverage of the topic
  • Notable aspects of the source

Tutorial:  What is an annotated bibliography

Staying Organized

When you are involved in a lengthy research project you will want to stay organized. 

Useful strategies can include:

  • Starting with a concept map to visually explore topic.
  • Using a research strategy worksheet to explore terms and strategies.
  • Keeping track of what you have searched and in what databases/resources:
    • Create a research log -- use Word or similar. 
      • It is useful to note:  database/search engine used, terms searched, etc.
      • Sample:   Library Research Log      (Template developed by Ms. Glenn Ellen Starr-Stilling)
  • Using Zotero or similar citation management software to capture citations, pdfs, create bibliographies and more.
  • Creating a source matrix which allows you to summarize key facts and then review them in summary form.