Literature Review in SoTL

Literature ReviewA literature review does two things.  First, we can deepen our understanding of the questions we have in our teaching.  Well-written SoTL projects provide theory and models to situate the question within a conceptual framework.  We can make connections between our questions and the understanding of teaching and learning in a broader context.  By connecting our question to educational theory or models, we can contribute to SoTL.  Second, a review of literature helps us refine our question and develop our study design. We learn about methods that might support finding answers to our questions, recognize barriers to the ways questions are asked and limitations to design methods. By reading other SoTL work we refine question and study design.

 It is important that clinical nursing faculty step out of the nursing discipline to see what is being written about teaching and learning across different fields.  MacMillan (2018) stated that SoLT work is dispersed across discipline specific journals on teaching and learning. Therefore, there is no database that brings topics of teaching and learning together and no consistent definition of terms. After searching PubMed, consider search Scopus.

While reviewing literature, it is important to keep several factors in mind to not waste valuable time and find the best, most recent study. Recently published articles in peer-reviewed journals and search engines are both useful and convenient tools to find information, but be cautious about publication bias, and use the best search terms to find the most relevant materials. While textbooks can offer up great information, many are outdated and therefore not the best source for current information.

Colleagues and experts can also provide background information or cite relevant papers which can sometimes be missed during standard searches. Editorials and expert opinions are also great sources of debates and/or controversies in clinical practice and can give investigators the opportunity to stay up to date on research. Systematic reviews, meta-analyses and clinical guidelines can also reveal gaps in knowledge while providing direction in future research needs.

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