I am spending Spring break working on a paper, specifically, the literature review section. So I thought I’d document my process here, in case it may help you. Maybe we can turn this blog post into an ad-hoc literature review support group.
(Speaking of support groups, I tried creating one for College of Technology graduate students. Nothing much has happened yet, but if you’re interested, join the group on Facebook. I’m planning to try again to meet over the summer.)
Back to the literature review. It sounds simple. Here are the steps, in 140 characters or fewer (fewer, not less):
Yesterday, I worked on reading articles that an undergraduate research intern had helped me collect.
As I was reading, I experienced the following:
- elation and satisfaction at learning new things
- panic that there’s so much more to read than I have time before the deadline (and by deadline, I mean before I die)
- confusion about how to organize the articles into literature review sections
- occasional tiredness and boredom, coupled with restlessness. Even though I was tired, I couldn’t stop reading, I had to pick up article after article.
- the thought that I can’t do this before deadline, I should just give up and try a later deadline
- the thought that I’ve done this before, and just like I miraculously met deadlines before, I will meet the deadline this time, too.
You may experience all of the above, except, maybe, the last one – if you do not have sufficient experience. What I am trying to say is that unpleasant feelings, panic, and doubts are part of the process. They don’t mean much. Just like a headache goes away, they, too, will go away. So notice the unpleasantness, label it as normal, and keep going. I wish I’d known earlier on that they are a normal part of the process.
The most difficult for me was the confusion, the fact that I could not see a structure or a way to organize articles into sections. That’s when I knew I need to take a break (go to sleep) and give my brain time to process all the new information. When I woke up this morning, I had a structure in mind, an I could hear the words for the first paragraph (which is the hardest for me to write).
This is where I am right now. My paper is about using social media in higher education. So, I’m thinking that the outline of the literature review will go something like this:
- Several people argue that Web 2.0 is so much better than sliced bread (cite here all of these arguments). If it’s so wonderful, how come we don’t all use Web 2.0 in our teaching? And more importantly, what evidence do we have that Web 2.0 is as really as great as these arguments claim? (This is my transition to the section about empirical studies.)
- Empirical studies have looked at social media tools individually. There are studies about microblogging in education and at conferences, which show that… (summarize results here). There are studies about using blogs in education which show that… (summarize results here). There are studies about wikis… There are studies about some other random tools… However, there aren’t studies that look at an integral social media solution. What happens when you combine several of these tools in education? That’s the need we are trying to address with our study.
- Theoretical framework: Learning outcomes, Self-determination theory, Social capital (explain all these theories and how they apply to our problem).
- Study goal and research questions.
- THAT’S IT. That’s the end of my literature review.
I am now thinking that there’s a bunch of statistics and studies about how students use the Internet and social media, and they seem to belong somewhere in the literature review, but I am not sure where. Help me out: Where do you think I should plug them in, in this structure? Or should I leave them out?
How’s your process going? What feelings are you experiencing? What are you discovering that works well for you?