Systematic reviews of research in science education: Rigour or rigidity?

J Bennett, F Lubben, S Hogarth, B Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


This paper explores the role of systematic reviews of research literature and considers what they have to offer research in science education. The origins of systematic reviews are described, together with the reasons why they are currently attracting considerable attention in the research literature. An overview is presented of the key features of systematic review methods, illustrating with examples from two systematic reviews undertaken in science education - one on aspects of small-group work in science lessons, and the other on the effects on pupils of context-based and Science - Technology - Society approaches. Issues raised by systematic reviews in terms of characterizing research studies and making judgements about their quality are then discussed. Finally, systematic reviews are compared with more traditional narrative reviews to identify ways in which they can contribute to the undertaking of research studies in a science education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-406
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2005



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