Ever felt overwhelmed by the amount of information you get when researching for that big term paper? Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could summarize the existing scholarship for you so that you could get a quick grasp on what has already been said and done?
Well, if you are working in a field of science or social science and looking for a nice, trustworthy synthesis of the published scholarship on a research topic, Annual Reviews could be just the thing you need. What is Annual Reviews? Annual Reviews is a non-profit publisher specializing in publishing a series of review journals in (currently) 41 fields and disciplines in sciences and social sciences. Each review journal, such as Annual Review of Public Health, publishes review articles written by leading scholars in the field that summarize the major developments over the past few years (sometimes decades) on some of the key topics in the field. These review articles are useful for all researchers, neophytes through seasoned veterans. They provide a convenient way to keep your knowledge up to date about current research in your field; and if you are new to the field, these articles could serve as an excellent introduction.
For example, if you are working on a paper about public health in China, you can start your search with Annual Reviews. Type in “health and China,” and the first hit you get is an article called “The Current State of Public Health in China” by Liming Li (Annual Reviews of Public Health, April 2004). In a compact and easy to read style, the article summarizes the major research on the topic since the 1920s. The article consists of four sections: History and Achievements, Establishment of the Chinese Center of Disease Control, New Challenges for Public Health in China, and Prospects, followed by a list of 20 cited sources. With this article in hand, you will be way ahead of the game, compared with your peers who are probably drowning in the millions of Google hits.
But this is not all. Annual Reviews is just one of many tools that the library has to help Hopkins students become better, more efficient researchers. Be sure to talk to the librarian assigned to your academic department, a.k.a. an Academic Liaison Librarian. They are the experts in research tools for your field of study and they would be more than happy to show you all the cool tools to jump start your research.