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Borg & Gall (1989) state, “Although the importance of a thorough review of the literature is obvious to everyone, this task is more frequently slighted than any other phase of research…Often the insights gained through the review will save as much time in conducting the research as the review itself required.”
to identify gaps in the literature
to avoid reinventing the wheel (at the very least this will save time and it can stop you from making the same mistakes as others)
to carry on from where others have already reached (reviewing the field allows you to build on the platform of existing knowledge and ideas)
to identify other people working in the same fields (a researcher network is a valuable resource)
to increase your breadth of knowledge of your subject area
to identify seminal works in your area
to provide the intellectual context for your own work, enabling you to position your project relative to other work
to identify opposing views
to put your work into perspective
to demonstrate that you can access previous work in an area
to identify information and ideas that may be relevant to your project
to identify methods that could be relevant to your project
Source: Bourner, T. (1996) 'The research process: four steps to success', in Greenfield, T. (ed), Research methods: guidance for postgraduates, Arnold, London.
Go to the library, look in paper indexes,locate the journal and read it
Go to the library, use a dedicated computer with an index located on CD, locate the journal and read it
Use your home computer, access indexes electronically, if the journal is not on-line, go to the library, locate the journal and read it.
Go to the Library and wander around
Not the most efficient but interesting
Use electronic indexes
Start with more global secondary sources
Handbooks of Research
The Encyclopedia of Educational Research – a four volume set that looks at various facets of education. Most entries have detailed bibliographies.
Handbook of Research on ______
Early Childhood Education
Math Teaching and Learning
Music Teaching and Learning
Review of Research in Education – Published annually, generally focuses on 2-3 areas
Review of Educational Research – published quarterly, contains latest research, has extensive bibliography
Scholarly books in the area of your interest
Original works (journal articles, research papers)
More current than secondary sources
Specialized indexes are used to find the articles.
Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC)
Established in 1966 by the U.S. Department of Education
Sixteen different clearinghouses review and summarize research
One clearinghouse focuses on just adult, career and vocational education
CIJE (Current Index to Journals in Education)
Over 900 educational journals are indexed.
This is published in hard copy and electronically.
RIE (Resources in Education)
Research conference papers
RIE is published in hard copy and electronically
Produces two major products:
These documents are called fugitive literature or gray literature because they are not widely disseminated or easy to obtain!
It might be wise to spend a few minutes looking at the ERIC Thesaurus to find the terms used to catalog items before searching.
For example “teaching effectiveness” is not a term used, but “teacher effectiveness” is.
It is best to start broad and then narrow the search by using “and” in your searches.
“agricultural education” and “teacher effectiveness”
You can search by title, key terms, author, journal name, etc.
Most indexes allow similar searches
Journal articles can be found in the journals in which the were published (CIJE)
Other documents have a ED number such as ED131188. This refers to a microfiche that can be retrieved and read at the NCSU or other major university libraries using a microfiche reader.
This is the Basic Search Screen in ERIC via the NCSU library
Type in subject you are looking for here.
You can limit search to a specific journal here.
This is the Advanced Search Screen in ERIC via the NCSU library
This is the Basic Search Screen in ERIC via the Educator’s Reference Desk
This is the Advanced Search Screen in ERIC via the Educator’s Reference Desk
There are basic and advanced search screens in ERIC
The Search Interface for ERIC may vary some depending upon how you access ERIC
AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) is a bibliographic database of citations to the agricultural literature created by the National Agricultural Library and its cooperators. Production of these records in electronic form began in 1970, but the database covers materials in all formats, including printed works from the 15th century.
The records describe publications and resources encompassing all aspects of agriculture and allied disciplines, including animal and veterinary sciences, entomology, plant sciences, forestry, aquaculture and fisheries, farming and farming systems, agricultural economics, extension and education, food and human nutrition, and earth and environmental sciences.
Contains journal articles, extension publications, experiment station documents, and similar resources.
There is a little overlap between ERIC and AGRICOLA in agricultural and extension education.
It is better to have an overlap than a gap.
An AGRICOLA search through the NCSU Library
Nearly all doctoral dissertations written in North America are indexed in DAI.
You can search by topic, author, university, topic and several other terms.
Please note the search fields!
Life's Little Problems...and Pleasures: Watching Soap Operas
Electrical Measurements on Cuticles of the American Cockroach
Determinants of Flossing Behavior in the College Age Population
Classification of Drinking Styles Using the Topographical Components of Beer Drinking
Garage Sales as Practice: Ideologies of Women, Work, and Community in Daily Life
Finger Painting and Personality Diagnosis
Communication Use in the Motorcycle Gang
Ritual Drama in American Culture: The Case of Professional Wrestling
An Adaptive Surfing Apparatus
I Am You, You Are Me: A Philosophical Explanation of the Possibility That We Are All the Same Person
Jock and Jill: Aspects of Women's Sports History in America
If you are looking for articles published prior to 1981 you may need to go to the library and use a paper index titled “The Education Index”. Most electronic indexes have not gone back in time to index the earlier journals.
Once you find an article that is helpful, look at the references in that article and track some of those down.
Once you find an article, look at the various descriptors in the search window and make note of those descriptors.
Documenting your References
Some examples of APA
In Agricultural and Extension Education we use the APA Publication Manual.
Citations in the text of your paper list the author and date of the works you used in your research.
These references are brief but should give enough information to enable the reader to find the full citation in the references list at the end of the paper.
The most pressing issue threatening gorilla survival is the lack of support for gorilla conservation among government officials and local resident groups (Garen, 2000).
Schaller (1963) stresses that rotational agriculture, which promotes the growth of secondary forest, is strong factor in providing favorable habitat for gorillas.
Agnew, C. & Anderson, E.W. (1992). Water
resources in the arid realm. New York:
Weil, D. (2006). The corporate blogging book:
Absolutely everything you need to know to get it
right. New York: Portfolio.
Augustine, S., & Greene, C. (2002). Discovering how
students search a library web site: A usability
case study. College & Research Libraries, 63 (4),
354 - 365.