Posts Tagged ‘Literature Review’

Here are some student written posts that do a good job of capturing what we did in class: DMCrimm provides a complete overview, and Joygreenleaf some tips related to the last hour of class.

You might also find it useful to look at the review of this class from last year, which includes some slides and more details on literature reviews.

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It’s done!

Not only the literature review, but the entire paper. That explains why I didn’t have time to post an update on the blog.

In case you missed it, here’s part 1 – my process for working on a literature review.

I left off with an outline. So, what happened next?

After reading a few more articles, I felt that the outline didn’t make any sense whatsoever, and that I had no idea how to go about this. Stress plummeted to very unpleasant levels. When that happens, I know what it means: It’s time to start writing.

So I started writing. I started with just the first paragraph, and that lead me to the second. After that, I re-evaluated my outline. I looked at all the articles, sorted them into piles, and saw that my initial outline plan actually made sense.

This is what my lit review looks like

So, I started attacking the literature review section by section – aka pile by pile. As soon as I was done with a pile of articles, I put it aside. I kept writing, and writing, because at that point I was on a roll  – I knew what I wanted to do, and couldn’t wait to get it done. So I actually drafted the entire literature review in one sitting (maybe 5 hours or so). As the need occurred, I found more references to fill in the occasional gap.

When I write, I work with Word and Endnote – it is a reference management software that works with Word to insert citations in text and in the list of references. So I had to make sure that each reference was entered correctly in Endnote. I use Zotero to collect references, then export them into Endnote, and clean them up in Endnote. Zotero references often need a lot of cleanup – for example, each word in an article’s title is capitalized, and that’s not correct in APA style, so I need to go back and lower case each word manually, and add whatever information is missing. I hear Zotero also has a plugin for Word, but I am pretty happy with Endnote. Have you used it? What do you think about it?

I cannot share the end result publicly, but if you’d like to see the literature review, let me know and I’ll post it on Blackboard.

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).

Pooky helping with a literature review. Note the piles of articles in the background. Each pile became a lit review section.

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. Theoretical framework: Learning outcomes, Self-determination theory, Social capital (explain all these theories and how they apply to our problem).
  4. Study goal and research questions.
  5. 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?

 

I just uploaded on Bb, as promised in class, one of my older papers, so you can see yet another example of a literature review. I’ve made comments on the side and highlighted text to draw your attention to the organization of the literature review, and how I used it to build an argument for the study.

Note that although the paper is about corporate presence on Facebook, there’s almost no research I review on that particular topic. Instead, I review research on closely related ideas. This is one common mistake students make: If they can’t find research on their particular topic (which is actually a very good thing!), they don’t look one level away, to topics that are related, but not quite identical.

A good literature review funnels ideas, concepts, methods, findings from several areas of research into this one thing, which becomes your research question. Speaking of research questions, if you don’t know what they look like, take a look at the slides below to see some examples. Ideally, your literature review should end in a specific research question.