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PSY 225: Jones (fall 2023)

Conducting a Literature Review

Accessing the Literature

Using the Thesaurus

Finding Review Articles

A review article is a long review of the literature on a research topic, theory, or academic discipline/sub-discipline. A review article is often peer-reviewed by experts in that topic, theory, or academic discipline. Topics are selective or comprehensive. Review articles are organized chronologically, thematically, or methodologically. Most often a person writing a review article is a specialist. 

Review articles attempt to summarize what is known about a topic at the time of writing. So it is a good introduction to themes in the research conversations that happen in scholarly journals. Even an older review article will have value because it will usually give students an idea of major issues of concern. Students should take notes of the subheadings and headings in a review article and pay attention to the names of journals and articles cited in the article. The subheadings can make great search terms for novice researchers who are unfamiliar with the disciplinary jargon. The researcher should follow up on frequently cited journals.

Additionally, the researcher may want to take note of older articles because they are probably important if scholars are still referring to them 20 years after they are written.

Finding Seminal Works

Landmark works, sometimes called seminal or classic studies, are articles that initially presented an idea of great importance or influence within a particular discipline. These are the articles that are referred to time and time again in the research, so you are likely to see these sources frequently cited in other journal articles, books, dissertations, etc.

Identifying a landmark article relies heavily on your own thoroughness in examining and synthesizing the existing literature. Typically, there will not be any explicit labels placed on articles, identifying them as "landmark" or "seminal". Rather, you will begin to see the same authors or articles cited frequently. 

It is important to keep in mind that seminal studies may have been published quite some time ago.

Limiting a database search to only the past 5 years, for example, may exclude landmark studies from your results.

To avoid overlooking pivotal research that may have occurred in years past, it is recommended that you do not use a date limiter when searching for landmark articles.

The number of times an article has been cited can be an indicator of its importance. An easy way to locate that info is to look up an item in Google Scholar

Citation Mining

Citation mining is simply tracking down a second potential source using only the citation information about it provided within the first source.

For example, you might find an article cited within another article and then go to the end of that article, where References are listed, and use the information about the journal that the article originally appeared in to see if we own it at Hutchins.


READ, J. P.; WARDELL, J. D.; COLDER, C. R. Reciprocal associations between PTSD symptoms and alcohol involvement in college: A three-year trait-state-error analysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, nov. 2013. v. 122, n. 4, p. 984–997.

Looking at the same illustration that we referenced in the 'Seminal Works' section, we can now "cite forward" using the "Cite by" link in Google Scholar

Finding Theoretical Articles

What are Theoretical Articles?

A theoretical article contains or refers to new or established abstract principles related to a specific field of knowledge. These articles are peer-reviewed but do not normally contain research or present experimental data.

How do I know I found a theoretical article?

Add terms like concepts, conceptual, framework, model, theoretical foundation, and perspectives to your search.

Limiting your search