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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 four ways to find them. Because these articles are relatively scarce, you may need to try more than one.



  1. Click Advanced Search
  2. To limit to literature reviews, scroll down to Methodology. From this menu, select Literature Review. OR Meta Analysis
  3. Scroll up to the search boxes and enter your keywords. All of your results will be limited to either empirical articles or literature reviews.


Psychology Database [A database of articles from psychology journals]

  1. Click Advanced Search (above the search box).
  2. 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). Click Apply.
  5. Search


MegaSearch   [Searches multiple databases. This will find review articles in psychology and allied disciplines. It includes some articles from the Annual Review of Psychology above.]

  • Click the link above.
  • Before you search, scroll down a little, and check the box for Psychology.
  • In a search box, type one of these exactly, using quotes:  "literature review"  OR "meta analysis"
  • To the right, click the drop-down menu. Select TI Title.
  • Click Search. 2200+ literature reviews are found.
  • In another search box, experiment with topic keywords. Example: depression 
  • Search to find literature review on your topic.


Annual Review of Psychology  [A psychology journal that publishes only literature reviews]

  • Our online subscription ends in 2005, so we don't have online access to newer reviews.
  • For online access:
    • Click the link above. 
    • Enter your topic keywords.  Example:  "eating disorders"

PCC's West Campus Library has a print subscription that includes all the newer years. See the catalog record. So, if you find a record for a good literature review from 2006-2011, you can get the full text the old fashioned way, by photocopying!