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Literature Reviews: Lit Review Sources

Where do I find information for a literature review?

Research is done by...

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  • Critical Evaluations
  • Interpretive Work
  • Research (empirical)
  • “Grey” literature (identify trends)
    • College reports
    • Curriculum documents
  • Handouts
  • Retrieved through hardcopy/electronic media

...communicated through...

  • Anthologies
  • Blogs
  • Conference Papers
  • Journals
  • Lectures
  • Letters
  • Meetings
  • Newsletters
  • Newspapers
  • Reports
  • Seminars
  • Textbooks
  • Theses
  • Tweets

...and organized in...

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Types of sources for a review...

  • Primary source: Usually a report by the original researchers of a study (unfiltered sources)
  • Secondary source: Description or summary by somebody other than the original researcher, e.g. a review article (filtered sources)
  • Conceptual/theoretical: Papers concerned with description or analysis of theories or concepts associated with the topic
  • Anecdotal/opinion/clinical: Views or opinions about the subject that are not research, review or theoretical (case studies or reports from clinical settings)

A Heirarchy of research information:

Source: SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Medical Research Library of Brooklyn. Evidence Based Medicine Course. A Guide to Research Methods: The Evidence Pyramid:

Life Cycle of Publication

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Scientific information has a ‘life cycle’ of its own… it is born as an idea, and then matures and becomes more available to the public. First it appears within the so-called ‘invisible college’ of experts in the field, discussed at conferences and symposia or posted as pre-prints for comments and corrections. Then it appears in the published literature (the primary literature), often as a journal article in a peer-reviewed journal.

Researchers can use the indexing and alerting services of the secondary literature to find out what has been published in a field. Depending on how much information is added by the indexer or abstracter, this may take a few months (though electronic publication has sped up this process). Finally, the information may appear in more popular or reference sources, sometimes called the tertiary literature.

The person beginning a literature search may take this process in reverse: using tertiary sources for general background, then going to the secondary literature to survey what has been published, following up by finding the original (primary) sources, and generating their own research Idea.

(Original content by Wade Lee)