Amy Guy

Raw Blog

Monday, April 22, 2013

[Notes] How to write a literature review workshop


Just notes!

Workshop by Dr Mimo Caenepeel on Monday 22nd April.

'Critical' does not mean you have to pass judgement, or say why it's good or bad.
Not taking things at face value.

Started with freewriting about what has particularly influenced / inspired our own research.  Five minutes, not allowed to stop or edit, don't worry about quality of writing, not for anyone else to read.  A good way to get ideas out of your head and start to organise your thoughts without censoring or constraining yourself.

How many pages will a review usually take up in a thesis?  My policy is to write what needs to be written and stop when you're done.  But apparently 20 to 30, sometimes more, is normal in sciences.

There's no consistent / right answer to 'how many publications to review'.  For some people it's in the tens, for some the hundreds.

Think about how to integrate literature review into the thesis.  You're unlikely to have a chapter that is just 'literature review' and no mention of the background reading elsewhere.

Good qualities for a lit review?
- Coherence (avoid fragmentation)
- Structure, clarity.
- Proof of novelty - purposeful.

A review can often be considered as an indicator of the quality of the rest of the research - demonstrating scholarship.

A good place to start:
1. Write your research question, formulated as a question.
2. Write up to five research areas that are relevant to your research question.
3. Note some related issues/areas that will not be considered in your review.

Think about balance of content.
1. Three studies influential in your field (I couldn't answer this, I clearly need to read more).
2. Two significan older contributions.
3. Five recent sources.
4. Two sources that have strongly influenced your thinking.

You don't need to consider all papers in the same level of detail.  Decide which papers are more important / useful than others.

For some papers (important ones) you should work through these questions in the same way every time you read something (this is 'SQ3R'):
1. Survey: What is the gist of the article? Skim the title, abstract, introduction, conclusion and section headings. What stands out?
2. Question: Which aspects of the research are particularly relevant for your review? Articulate some relevant questions the article might address.
3. Read: Read through the text more slowly and in more detail and highlight key points / key words.  Identify connections with other material you have read.
4. Recall: Divide the text into manageable chunks and summarise each chunk in a sentence.
5. Review: To what extent has the text answered the questions you formulated earlier?

Critical reading (these seem like really useful questions to work through whilst reading papers):
1. What is the author's central argument or main point, ie. what does the author want you, the reader, to accept?
2. What conclusions does the author reach?
3. What evidence does the author put foward in support of his or her conclusions?
4. Do you think the evidence is strong enough to support the arguments and conclusions, ie. is the evidence relevant and far-reaching enough?
5. Does the author make any unstated assumptions about shared beliefs with readers?
6. Can these assumptions be challenged?
7. Could the text's scientific, cultural or historical context have an effect on the author's assumptions, the content and the way it has been presented?

See Ridley, D. The Literature Review: A step-by-step guide for students.  Sage Study Skills Series. Sage Publications, 2011 (2008).
At 12:33 pm Nicole Minix said...

A good resource for those working on with their literature review. I once asked of why we need to write dissertation literature review that helps me to realize its importance.