Review articles are a type of scholarly journal article that explore how scholars have understood and debated a broad topic over time.
Use review articles to:
• identify which scholars, books, articles (etc.) have made a major impact (within your discipline)
• see how scholars from different disciplines have approached the topic
Some examples from the social sciences and sciences:
• Anthropology and Voice (from Annual Review of Anthropology) - "This review focuses on scholarship produced since the 1990s in a variety of fields, addressing the status of the voice within Euro-Western modernity, voice as sound and embodied practice, technological mediation, and voicing. It then turns to the ways in which anthropology and related fields have framed the relationship between voice and identity, status, subjectivity, and publics."
• Plant Cellular and Molecular Responses to High Salinity (from Annual Review of Plant Biology) - "Plant responses to salinity stress are reviewed with emphasis on molecular mechanisms of signal transduction and on the physiological consequences of altered gene expression that affect biochemical reactions downstream of stress sensing....We summarize evidence for plant stress signaling systems, some of which have components analogous to those that regulate osmotic stress responses of yeast."
The scholarly database Web of Science lets you sort search results by the number of times articles have been cited. This is one measure - an imperfect measure - of impact of a source. (Why is it an imperfect measure? For one, notoriety doesn't necessarily mean quality. Also, the more recent an article, the lower the chances of it having been cited - academic articles take a while to be edited and published.)