Fostering the Cultivation of Practices in Multimodal and Culturally Responsive Literature Review Research Methods


Published: April 17th, 2024 by Dr. Kristen Radsliff Rebmann

When I talk to students about their program of study, scholarship in LIS, and their identity as researchers, they often tell me that they have no interest in doing research and that they just want to be librarians. Furthermore, I’ve been asked why the iSchool has developed a required course in research methods: INFO 285.  In response to these queries, I try to emphasize that research absolutely is in our wheelhouse as information professionals (a librarian superpower) and that students should take the opportunity in INFO 285 to deepen their skill set and competencies relating to research and writing for scholarly communication.

That said, student resistance made me consider how I (as a faculty member) can do a better job of designing a course that meets students “where they are”, while supporting their development as information professionals who excel in research and other forms of scholarly production. With these experiences in mind I sent out, back in 2021, to develop a new section of info 285 that might support students in a domain of research methods that would deepen their knowledge of research practices but also connect them with competencies that they could immediately use in the workplace.

As a faculty member that has been teaching INFO 275 for nearly a decade (a course relating to the design of programs and services for diverse populations), I contemplated designing a new section of INFO 285 that is both equity-forward and is primed to provide a framework for research in diversity, equity, and inclusion.  I was inspired by SJSU’s language around acknowledging and celebrating this type of scholarship of engagement.  Yet, I realized that there are so many inductive and critical theories out there that to focus on one related methodology, connected to equity-forward research, would be very limiting or (at least) so niche that the course may not fill.  So, I embarked on a new journey to work towards identifying research methods that are new or articulated in new, exciting ways.  I read many new (to me) textbooks and articles on novel methodologies and new takes on established approaches.

I asked myself: What would be exciting AND useful for our graduate students?

In my travels, I came across Anthony J. Onwuegbuzie and Rebecca Frels’ culturally relevant approach to writing literature reviews for programs of study and publication: Seven Steps to a Comprehensive Literature Review – A Multimodal and Cultural Approach.  I connected strongly with the textbook’s emphasis on the use of multimodal texts in charting the landscape of a topic and the authors’ core argument that researchers must take a reflexive stance in their work - reckoning with diverse voices as they make intellectual claims and form arguments in support of moving the field forward.  I found this the perfect text to support a new course in literature review research methods – a methodology that would support both scholarship and professional writing.

So, what IS a comprehensive literature review anyway?

The authors’ own definition of the comprehensive literature review appears on page 4 of the text.

”The comprehensive Literature Review is a methodology, conducted either to stand alone or to inform primary research at multiple stages of their research process which optimally involves the use of mixed research techniques inclusive of culture, ethics, and multimodal texts and settings in a systematic, holistic, synergistic and cyclical process of exploring, interpreting, synthesizing, and communicating published and or unpublished information.”

If you’ve worked as a researcher for many years like I have, you’ll find and read many, many literature reviews but notice along the way that many authors deploy a methodological framework that “makes visible” their epistemological and ontological standpoints.  Literature review authors also traditionally “stay in their lane” when writing about their chosen topics.  This textbook is a reaction against these dispositions. 

What makes Onwuegbuzie and Frels’ comprehensive literature review methodology multimodal, and cultural in its approach?

On page 39 of the textbook, Onwuegbuzie and Frels argue that the multimodal characteristics of our face2face and online experiences of the world require (not only) culturally progressive and ethical research approaches to the world but an approach that includes information harvested from resources harvested in multiple modalities.  The acronym they introduce, MODES, refers to information harvested in the forms of media, observations, documents, experts, and secondary data.

Further, their CLR framework operationalizes the process of locating literature review methods within the author(s) own belief system and stances but also to acknowledge the assets and wealth of knowledge across the many research paradigms and cultural communities that exist in the many field producing knowledge.These efforts represent an important movement within the field: creating a literature review methodology that makes visible the belief systems that shape knowledge production and the value of incorporating diverse intellectual traditions and communities of practice into the information that is collected and synthesized.

I was very proud when students in my course were able to publish their literature review that charts the landscape of refugee services in library and information science.  You can find their open access article here: Refugees’ Digital Equity, Inclusion, and Access in Public Libraries: A Narrative Review.


Onwuegbuzie, A. J. and Frels, R. (2016). Seven steps to a comprehensive literature review: A multimodal and cultural approach. (1st ed.) Sage.

Stoner, J., Sagran, N., Cervantes, D., Baseley, S., & Borgolini, S. (2022). Refugees’ Digital Equity, Inclusion, and Access in Public Libraries: A Narrative Review. Library Philosophy & Practice. (p. 7219). Available:


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