Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Summing Up

Summing Up

The Science of Reviewing Research

Richard J. Light, David B. Pillemer

ISBN 9780674854314

Publication date: 10/15/1984

How can a scientist or policy analyst summarize and evaluate what is already known about a particular topic? This book offers practical guidance.

The amount and diversity of information generated by academic and policy researchers in the contemporary world is staggering. How is an investigator to cope with the tens or even hundreds of studies on a particular problem? How can conflicting findings be reconciled? Richard Light and David Pillemer have developed both general guidelines and step-by-step procedures that can be used to synthesize existing data. They show how to apply quantitative methods, including the newest statistical procedures and simple graphical displays, to evaluate a mass of studies and combine separate data sets. At the same time, they insist on the value of qualitative information, of asking the right questions, and of considering the context in which research is conducted. The authors use exemplary reviews in education, psychology, health, and the policy sciences to illustrate their suggestions.

Written in nontechnical language and addressed to the beginning researcher as well as to the practicing professional, Summing Up will set a new standard for valid research reviews and is likely to become a methodological classic.


  • Astute and wonderfully lucid, Summing Up will be a treasure for inexperienced researchers and contains messages for many experienced ones as well. The book goes beyond techniques for boiling down multiple studies to a single summary ‘effect size’ showing how qualitative information from the original studies improves interpretation.

    —Lee J. Cronbach, Stanford University


  • Richard J. Light is Professor in the Graduate School of Education and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
  • David B. Pillemer is Professor of Psychology at Wellesley College.

Book Details

  • 212 pages
  • 6-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches
  • Harvard University Press

From this author