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Interpreting the scope of their literature reviews: significant differences in research students’ concerns

Christine Bruce (Christine Bruce is a Lecturer in the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 May 2001


As librarians have developed a growing concern for fostering the information literacy of library users they have become increasingly involved in teaching many facets of information use. Completing a literature review forms one important context within which people learn to use information effectively, and within this process the need to be able to think critically about the relevance of information is very important. One of the problems that neophyte researchers face in the early stages of their research, is the need to interpret the possible “scope” or “coverage” of their literature review. This article describes eight ways of thinking about scope identified among beginning research students: topicality, comprehensiveness, breadth, exclusion, relevance, currency, availability, and authority. Some of these eight concerns reflect recognised information values. They also suggest strategic directions for librarians and other educators working with beginning researchers. These directions include the need to help students adopt psychological rather than topical views of relevance, and subjective rather than objective views of information. Such strategies are likely to reduce students’ emphasis on comprehensive coverage, and would encourage them to focus on establishing connections and meaning in relation to their own research.



Bruce, C. (2001), "Interpreting the scope of their literature reviews: significant differences in research students’ concerns", New Library World, Vol. 102 No. 4/5, pp. 158-166.




Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited