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PSY 289 - Downtown - Psychology Research Methods: Literature Reviews

What is a literature review?

According to the American Psychological Association,

"Literature reviews . . . are critical evaluations of material that has already been published. . . . By organizing, integrating, and analyzing previously published material, authors of literature reviews consider the progress of research toward clarifying a problem.

In a sense, literature reviews are tutorials, in that authors

  • define and clarify the problem
  • summarize previous investigations . . .
  • identify relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the literature; and
  • suggest the next step or steps in solving the problem" (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 10).


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. (6th ed.).

Finding Literature Reviews or Meta-Analyses

Below are three ways to find them. Because these articles are relatively scarce, you may need to try more than one. Also, consider searching for broader, rather than narrower concepts.



  1. Click Advanced Search
  2. To limit your search, scroll down to Methodology. From this menu, select Literature Review. OR Meta Analysis. 
  3. Click Search. This displays all the articles of this type. 
    • Currently, 5,700+ literature reviews and 2,400+ meta-analyses.
  4. Now enter your topic keywords.
  5. Search. All of your keyword results will be limited to either literature reviews or meta-analyses.


Psychology Database [A ProQuest database of articles from psychology journals]

  1. Click Advanced Search (above the search box).
  2. Don't search yet, but enter your topic keywords.  Example: friendship
  3. Scroll down to the Document type box.
  4. Checkmark Literature Review (you will need to click More to browse the whole list). 
  5. Click Search


MegaSearch   [Searches multiple databases. MegaSearch is not as precise as the databases above. They both categorize articles by type, including literature reviews and meta-analyses. MegaSearch does not. But it has lots of articles. This strategy is not perfect, but still useful]

  • Click the link above.
  • Before you search, scroll down a little, to the list of Disciplines. Check the box for Psychology.
  • In a search box, type one of these exactly, using quotes:  "literature review"  OR "meta analysis"
  • To the right of the search box, click the drop-down menu. Select TI Title.
  • Click Search.
    • 3,900+ literature reviews are found, or 25,000+ meta-analyses are found.
  • In another search box, experiment with topic keywords. Example: depression 
  • Search to find literature review on your topic.