The accumulated research literature on any given topic is a potential mountain
lookout to interested scholars and practitioners. It can indicate
what knowledge is well verified, what should be considered tentative, and
what is without any foundation. It can suggest new theories that
better organize disparate knowledge and better predict the future.
It can point to the unknowns that would benefit from further research.
And it can suggest methodologies for research addressing those unknowns.
Searching for research literature
efficiently, finding what you need quickly, finding the full text online
when available, and avoiding an avalanche of irrelevant references. Hint:
Your favorite search engine will not find most of the scholarly literature!
Note: As of 2005,
most of the general guidance in this section on searching is still useful,
but the specifics about various search tools are obsolete.
Assessing individual reports
of research literature to determine whether their findings and conclusions
should be relied upon or are likely to be misleading. Hint:
Some of the research literature on almost every topic is misleading or
Integrating the various studies
on a topic to make the best assessments of what is known about the topic,
to identify promising future research, to improve conceptual frameworks
for research, and to determine the advantages and disadvantages of previously
used methodologies. Hint:
This isn't easy because the available studies usually exhibit apparent
“If I have seen farther than others, it is because
I stood on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton
The accumulated research literature on any given topic is also a potential
snake pit. The good literature is accompanied by other literature
that is based on rhetoric, wishful thinking, speculation, invalid findings
from poorly designed studies, and duplicitous attempts to mislead.
Whether the literature helps you gain perspective or clouds your vision
will depend on how you search for the literature, how you critique individual
studies, and how you integrate across studies. This web site will
help you with all three tasks.
How This Webtorial Will Help You
This site provides you with a series of brief lessons on critical aspects
of searching for research literature, assessing the quality of individual
reports, and integrating across several reports.
Organization of the Site
Lessons will explain, demonstrate, and sometimes have you practice
and receive feedback on your developing skills.
Treasure Chests will offer supplemental resources that might help
Searching for Research Literature
As of 2005, most of the general guidance in this section on searching is
still useful, but the specifics about various search tools are obsolete.
Assessing Individual Research Reports:
Overview of modern search strategies
Web Search Engines--to get a "quick take" on a topic
ERIC--to find scholarly literature related to education
PsycInfo--to find scholarly literature in psychology
ABI/Inform--to find scholarly literature on business and management
UMI Dissertation Abstracts--to find doctoral dissertations in all fields
Other Search Tools--for finding literature in the social sciences
Reference Librarians--for help when all else fails
Finding full text scholarly literature online
Lesson S-10: Bibliographic
databases for storing "finds" and formatting reference lists
Treasure Chest for Literature Searching
Integrating Multiple Studies On A Given Topic:
Lesson A-1: Overview
of assessing research
Lesson A-2: Assessing
the literature review that informed the study
Lesson A-3: Assessing
the problem statement and research questions
Lesson A-4: Assessing
Lesson A-5: Assessing
the data collection
Lesson A-6: Assessing
the data analysis
Lesson A-7: Assessing
the conclusions and recommendations
Lesson A-8: Assessing
the conclusions of the study
Treasure Chest for Assessment
Lesson I-1: Overview
of integrating across studies
Lesson I-2: Integrating
conceptual frameworks across studies
Lesson I-3: Integrating
methodologies across studies
Lesson I-4: Integrating
findings across studies
Lesson I-5: Integrating
research problems across studies
Lesson I-6: Planning
promising future research
Treasure Chest for Integrating Across Research Studies
This site presumes that you have basic skills in using a Web browser, including
how to activate hotlinks, use the vertical and horizontal scroll bar, and
use the "Back" button.
At the bottom of each page for this site there will be a button to return
you to this home page.
The general principals in the above listed lessons will remain valid for
many years, but some of the specifics about SEARCHING will become
outdated soon because Web-based resources are changing rapidly.
A few of the linked resources are "proprietary" and will be available to
students only at universities that subscribe to the particular resource;
that will be noted.
This site hotlinks to resources on many other Web sites and some of the
links may become inactive or switched to another URL. The site will be
updated about twice a year.
Suggestions for improvements are welcome. Tell us how to make this Web
site more helpful. What should be added, modified, and deleted? What hotlinks
have perhaps become inactive? Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will not be to answer messages sent to that address, but every six months
the messages will be reviewed and updates made to this web site.
Last Update: July 30, 2006
Acknowledgments: This Web site was
developed by Dr. Gregg Jackson, Dr. Adrianna Kezar, Maria Kozi and Nina
de las Alas, in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development
at The George Washington University. Dr.
Jackson is an Associate Professor of Education Policy and Coordinator of
the Education Policy Program.
Dr. Kezar is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Director of
the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education.
Ms. Kozi is the Information Services Coordinator at the ERIC Clearinghouse
on Higher Education and a freelance Web designer. Ms. de las Alas is an
M.A. candidate in the Education Policy Program and a research assistant.
The Graduate School provided a Technology Project Grant to cover direct
expenses associated with developing this Web site. Several faculty and
students provided helpful feedback on the prototype.