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Systematic Literature Reviews in Engineering Education and Other Developing Interdisciplinary Fields

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Abstract

Background

In fields such as medicine, psychology, and education, systematic reviews of the literature critically appraise and summarize research to inform policy and practice. We argue that now is an appropriate time in the development of the field of engineering education to both support systematic reviews and benefit from them. More reviews of prior work conducted more systematically would help advance the field by lowering the barrier for both researchers and practitioners to access the literature, enabling more objective critique of past efforts, identifying gaps, and proposing new directions for research.

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to introduce the methodology of systematic reviews to the field of engineering education and to adapt existing resources on systematic reviews to engineering education and other developing interdisciplinary fields.

Scope/Method

This article is primarily a narrative review of the literature on conducting systematic reviews. Methods are adapted to engineering education and similar developing interdisciplinary fields. To offer concrete, pertinent examples, we also conducted a systematic review of systematic review articles published on engineering education topics since 1990. Fourteen exemplars are presented in this article and used to illustrate systematic review procedures.

Conclusions

Systematic reviews can benefit the field of engineering education by synthesizing prior work, by better informing practice, and by identifying important new directions for research. Engineering education researchers should consider including systematic reviews in their repertoire of methodologies.

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