Choosing Resources for the Literature Review

Listed below are two purposes of the dissertation literature review. The question being addressed here is: How old should the scholarly studies be for the LII/Educational Technology dissertation literature review?

How old are your literature review articles? Dr. Darci at NoABDforme blog talks about how current the empirical studies must be for the dissertation literature review.

1.     Show a research gap for each research question using current research.

  • Current research is to be no more than five years old when the student graduates.
  • Consider setting up alerts in Google Scholar so newly published articles on your topic are sent to you email.
  • When we review the reference list we would expect to find a minimum of 50-75 current research studies – do not include books or dissertation/thesis
  • However, not all of research studies have to be 5 years old or less (keep reading)

2.    Build an argument that there is a gap in the literature and situate it within the best research on that topic.  This will provide the context and a long-range understanding of issue/topic.  These contextual resources are the ones that can be more than five years old. This is where the “mining” you did (looking at who is consistently cited in the studies you’re reading) may be used and cited.

Side Note: you actually DON’T have to show a gap for your dissertation topic. The other option is to show that there is much disagreement in the MOST current literature regarding a clear conclusion on your topic.  This therefore, justifies the need for additional data to further enlighten the subject. Your goal then becomes justifying how your innovative approach to the topic/study is worthy and might shed new light to a complicated problem.


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