Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Guiding the Inquiry Using the Modified Scientific Literature Review

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Guiding the Inquiry Using the Modified Scientific Literature Review

Article excerpt

An ethnographic study explored how 41 grade 11 students enrolled in biology, chemistry, physics and psychology classes completed a modified scientific literature review (SLR). Researchers questioned whether the use of primary readings from peer-review science journals promoted increased student learning, the ability to handle scientific information, the stimulation of critical thinking skills, development of a deeper understanding of a scientific topic, and the preparation for collegiate research. Data were collected in four phases: Preliminary interviews; debriefing interviews after completion of the SLRs; content analysis of student work; and face-to-face interviews two years after the SLR unit with self-selected participants from the original sample. Findings indicate that students were able to successfully manage the scientific literature. All participating students made an "intellectual jump" in knowledge creation. Construction of new scientific knowledge was reflected in the ability to compare and contrast the scientific studies, as well as indicate exceptions, omissions, trends, and possible implications for future research. Thirty percent of students mention the SLR as one of the most helpful college preparation experiences.


The purpose of this paper is to study the design of a modified scientific literature review (SLR) unit, as an instructional intervention, to overcome the constraints related to teaching science in traditional school settings. Science teachers and, by extension, their students are constrained by internal conditions of limited laboratory and classroom time and space, insufficient or dated equipment, and science education training as generalists. External societal conditions influence curriculum as well, including an over-dependency on science text-books, a limited trust in student-initiated, student-centered research, and an over-abundance of costly information sources and media available. The internal and external constraints of science in schools occur within an ever-expanding world of scientific information and study. A science teacher expressed his frustration in these words:

I was stuck. Three weeks were left in the school year and I was hoping to delve deep in to the nature versus nurture controversy with my introductory psychology class. I had taken a copious amount of notes on a myriad of issues surrounding the topic and planned three weeks of intensive lecture-based classes. I envisioned myself as having to be the "know-it-all" on issues ranging from intelligence to birth order to homosexuality. Truthfully, I was overwhelmed as I lacked the time and scientific knowledge base to dig deep into these issues.

In the end, my three week nature-nurture seminar turned into an exercise in frustration for both myself and my class. Students did not respond to the daily lectures that lacked student interaction, and I became disheartened as my lessons, while rich in breadth, lacked the needed depth.

What was I to do? Well, off I went to the library to discuss my problem with our sage, the school librarian. After listening to my tale of woe, my friendly librarian suggested that I ask students to become experts on a topic pertaining to nature versus nurture. Students becoming experts and knowing more than I do about a psychological topic? How was this to be?

The concept of a scientific literature review was proposed to me and the rest has been a happy history! No longer are my kids disengaged from their learning. No longer is the content of my course lacking depth and no longer am I frustrated. Through collaboration with the library staff my students have produced startling research on topics meaningful to them as many have used the assignment to better their understanding of themselves and the world around them.

I have also found that true collaboration is only possible if all individuals involved leave their egos at the doorstep. Truthfully, during the research process, I do not have control of my class. …

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