There are eight general steps in conducting an education literature review. Please follow the eight numbered boxes, starting below.
Please note that the general framework for this guide is derived from the work of Joyce P. Gall, M.D. Gall, and Walter R. Borg in Applying Educational Research: a Practical Guide (5th ed., 2005). Also, much of the information on framing the research question comes from Emily Grimm's Selected Reference Sources for Graduate Students in Education and Education Related Areas (1995).
Subjective Aspect Questions
Consider consulting other educators, faculty or government officials who may specialize in your research area.
You may also want to consult the American Educational Research Association SIG (Special Interest Group) website for the names of groups and individuals who have expertise in different educational areas. AERA provides the names, addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of individuals doing research in a variety of areas.
Use secondary sources to further define your research question and to expand your literature search. Secondary sources include encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, and thesauri. Secondary sources are resources that review research that others have done. They provide a general overview, will give you ideas for key search terms, and often include useful bibliographies for further reading.
Here are some key secondary sources and books on doing educational research:
Preliminary sources index primary research resources such as journal articles, conference proceeding papers, technical reports, government documents, dissertations and more. The CECH Library has created several specialized library guides on topics such as special education, instructional design & technology, and teaching STEM related topics that list which resources are most helpful for doing research in these areas. See below for key databases in education:
Choosing the most appropriate subject search terms, or descriptors, for searching indexes and catalogs can greatly influence your search results. A good place to start is ERIC's thesaurus of descriptors:
For assistance in obtaining copies of primary sources, please consult your liaison librarian.
As you print out copies of articles, review copies of books or reports, remember to look in the sources for bibliographies, names of individuals or groups who have done research on the topic, and for additional subject terms to help you narrow or broaden your research.
As you review the sources you find, classify them into meaningful categories. This will help you prioritize reading them and may indicate useful ways to synthesize what you discover. You may want to create a simple code for the different categories.
See the following resources for advice on preparing a literature review report:
University of Cincinnati Libraries
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