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Using Systematic Literature Reviews to Enhance Student Learning

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Teaching & Learning in Graduate Programs

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1685.1 - 26.1685.13



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Paper Authors


Branimir Pejcinovic Portland State University

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Branimir Pejcinovic received his Ph.D. degree from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is a Professor and former Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education at Portland State University, Electrical and Computer Engineering department. In this role he has led department-wide changes in curriculum with emphasis on project- and lab-based instruction and learning. His research interests are in the areas of engineering education, semiconductor device characterization, design and simulation, signal integrity and THz sensors. He is a member of IEEE and ASEE.

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Using systematic literature reviews to enhance student learning  Systematic literature review (SLR) is a skill assumed to be in the arsenal of all graduate studentspursuing thesis options at MS or PhD level. One would also assume that this is among the veryfirst tasks that such research-oriented students will undertake. However, our initial survey ofgraduate students shows that they have very little to no experience in performing SLR.Discussions with other faculty confirm this observation indicating that a more formal training inSLR is needed. One possible approach would be to design a “research methods” course thatwould cover SLR topics. Experience with other soft-skills such as technical writing suggests,however, that it is very important to provide a specific disciplinary context for learning.Therefore, we will argue that learning SLR can best be accomplished by its incorporation invarious courses across the engineering curriculum.Recent literature in the area of software engineering has advocated using SLR as a more genericeducational tool, potentially suitable even for undergraduate student use. The origins of theirformal procedures (protocols) can be traced back to medicine and social studies. A variation ofSLR called Interactive SLR (iSLR) has been published very recently [1] arguing for someflexibility in the protocol design so that iterations on some key components can be accomplished.In this report we will present the case that iSLR is a useful educational tool but that it is bestdone in context of a specific problem and not as a generalized approach, which is sometimesoffered in “research methods” courses. We propose that instead of making iSLR a researchproject by itself we should combine it with an actual research project on a specific subject mattercovered in a course. Educational benefits include improved critical thinking and writing,increased motivation, life-long learning skills, and increased topic as well as depth of coverage.We modified a solid-state electronics course for MS and PhD electrical engineering studentswithin which students undertake characterization of very thin metal films using THz TDSmethods as a research project. We have devised a detailed weekly protocol and checklist whichenables iSLR to be performed in one quarter and will report on the timing and tasks within it.We have set up three different groups (2+2+3) of students and each was given a different startingpaper, which will enable us to observe how consistent the final results are. Students willprimarily use citation management software (e.g. Zotero) to manage and document the iSLRprocess. The final product is a summary review report along with annotated bibliography.We have done an initial survey to establish student self-efficacy and will report on changes afterstudents finish their SLR projects. We will compare different reports for consistency of theirconclusions and coverage of the literature so that we can establish the reliability of iSLRapproach. We will use a rubric to assess the quality of final reports and in the final paper we willpresent lessons learned and possible future developments and uses of this methodology.[1] M. Lavallee, P.-N. Robillard, and R. Mirsalari, “Performing Systematic Literature ReviewsWith Novices: An Iterative Approach,” IEEE Trans. Education, vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 175-181,August 2014.

Pejcinovic, B. (2015, June), Using Systematic Literature Reviews to Enhance Student Learning Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25021

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