Finding Review Essays

A review essay is an article that reviews several books on a topic.  The reviewer discusses those books as a jumping off point to compare different schools of thought, show changing scholarly views, or just as a way to give an overview on the state of scholarship on that topic.   It is not the same as a book review, which usually only treats one book, and tends to be more brief.

To find a review essay, try the advanced search in Scholar OneSearch, the library’s catalog and discovery system. 

Enter your topic into the first box, and the words “review essay” in quotation marks in the second.

Review Essay Example fro Scholar OneSearch 


Notice that using the quotation marks forces the two words to be searched together, that is, in your results they will appear together as a phrase.  This isn’t foolproof, but it should cut down on the number of book reviews and other kinds of reviews. 

You will need to examine the full PDF article to make sure it is a review essay.  Usually a review essay has a list of books at the top to introduce the discussion: 

REview Essay title and opening


This strategy of putting "review essay" in quotation marks with your topic, works in JSTOR and other databases.  Here's an example from Google Scholar (note the instructions for how to set up Northeastern links to the full article):

REview essay in Google Scholar, with links


What if I can’t find a review essay that matches my topic exactly?  This happens often, especially if you've narrowed and focused your topic because there is so much literature.  And it's OK, because a review essay that takes a broader view can still be useful to you.  For example, you may find a review essay on the historiography of women in postwar France that would be helpful in giving background and context for a paper on the women’s role in the May 1968 Protests.  Ask your professor if you're not sure.