Historical Reviews

Historical reviews draw on primary research and historical documents to track the development of practices, policies, and ideas over time. These reviews are often presented chronologically starting with early research and moving toward more current examinations of practice and thought. Many of these reviews propose possibilities for future research, theorizing, practice, and/or policy. For example, in their introduction to a special issue of the Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society, Fuchs, Bruch, and Annegarn-GlaB (2016) present a chronological review of the history of educational films and identify five main themes that have defined the course of their development. They maintained that the “detailed study of the history of educational films within the fields of historical educational research and historical film research ... [is] one aspect of the sustained ‘media revolution’ that is now affecting schools and education” (p. 10).

In some cases, historical reviews have been credited with creating a foundational knowledge base that has defined an emerging body of scholarship. For example, Smagorinsky (personal communication) recently noted that when Braddock (1963) published a review of studies related to writing composition,“It was the first time in which composition research had ever been brought together under one heading, under one roof. Before that it had been scattered widely.” This synthetic volume identified several factors that affected writing (e.g., environmental factors, instructional factors, rhetorical considerations, assessment measures) and summarized five studies that were identified - using an extensive list of selection criteria - as “the most soundly based studies” (p. 55). Smagorinsky noted that this review had a powerful effect on writing scholars and helped to establish composition as an academic field.

Conceptual Mapping Reviews

Some scholars have used particular analysis and presentation tools to synthesize bodies of scholarship. Concept maps, originating in the field of science education, have been used in nursing education scholarship for over 25 years. These visual representations can take the form of charts, graphic organizers, tables, flowcharts, Venn Diagrams, timelines, or T-charts. The goal is to represent conceptual ideas within a field. Daley, Morgan, and Beman (2016) reviewed 221 articles, books, and book chapters to examine emergence of concept mapping practices in nursing research. Through their synthesis, they track the emergence and use of concept mapping and propose future research ventures to better understand how these tools might be used to support the learning of nursing candidates.This kind of conceptual mapping might also prove useful to educational researchers to understand the history and trajectory of knowledge flows.

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