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ERIC Number: EJ984428
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jun
Pages: 14
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0895-4852
Dismissive Reviews: Academe's Memory Hole
Phelps, Richard P.
Academic Questions, v25 n2 p228-241 Jun 2012
In scholarly terms, a "review of the literature" or "literature review" is a summation of the previous research that has been done on a particular topic. With a "dismissive literature review," a researcher assures the public that no one has yet studied a topic or that very little has been done on it. A "firstness claim" is a particular type of dismissive review in which a researcher insists that he is the first to study a topic. Firstness claims and dismissive reviews can be accurate--for example, with genuinely new scientific discoveries or technical inventions. But that does not explain their prevalence in nonscientific, nontechnical fields, such as education, economics, and public policy, nor does it explain their sheer abundance across all fields. Dismissive reviews assure readers that no other research has been conducted on a topic, "ergo," there is no reason to look for it. Perhaps it would be okay if everyone knew that most dismissive reviews were bunk and so discounted all of them. But, unfortunately, many believe them, and reinforce the harm by spreading them. The laziest dismissive review is one that merely references someone else's. What can be done about the information suppression resulting from glib dismissive reviews? The situation could be much improved if all scholars were made to review literature in the meta-analyst's way--instead of implying command of an entire research literature, specify exactly where one has looked and summarize only what is found there. More generally, the author believes that the meaning of "a contribution" to research should be redefined. Currently, original works are considered contributions, and quality literature reviews are not. But, what of the scholar who dismisses much of the research literature as nonexistent (or no good) each time he "contributes" an original work? That scholar is subtracting more from society's working memory than adding. That scholar's "value added" is negative. With dismissive reviews, society loses information, and that which remains is skewed in favor of those with the resources to promote their own. Public policy decisions are then based on limited and skewed information. And, governments (i.e., taxpayers) and foundations pay again and again for research that has already been done. (Contains 36 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001