An LDU short course presentationDissertations & Major Project Writing Week 2 of 5: Research skills, ‘surveying the literature’ & the ‘literature review’Robert Walsha, LDU City campus, Calcutta House, CM2-22
Dissertations & Major Project Writing week 2This week’s topics:• Research skills, methods & methodology: – critical analytical research: effective information gathering; – critical reflection; – keeping a research journal.• ‘Surveying the literature’: understanding & undertaking effective literature reviews
critical analytical research• It’s all about asking questions!• Note-taking strategies for success; – Skim-reading, chapter/index searching, etc – Using the margins; – Note-taking for context; – Photocopying as a tool / highlighting; – Spider/flow diagrams or mind-maps for keeping focus of key issues & their relationships with one another; also for establishing clear structural approaches;
critical analytical research – Spider/flow diagrams or mind-maps …Example of a mind-map
critical analytical research Climate Classification GB234 / 03/04/02 I. System of Climate Classification– ‘Cornell’ system, to facilitate Koppen A. Invented by Vladimir Koppen, botanist. Saw biological activities as function of climate characteristics questioning, critical pro-active What did he do? B. Created climograph; displays moly temp. and precip. On 1 Why important? graph Define C. Main concern was make it simple: relship between note-taking climograph. How potential evap and amt of mois recd at any geo. location do you calculate Give example II. Arctic Climates: ET + EF. E avg. moly temp<50 List and define E ET: avg. temp. warmst mo. 50F + < 32F climates Characteristics *tundra or continental sub arctic ET? EF? EF: avg. temp. in warmst mo. <32F *ice cap or arctic Define Humid Dry III. Humid Dry Boundary Boundary How HBD A. Marks maj. diff. between humid + dry climate regime. calculated? Example? B. Must know how boundary calculated Summary: Koppen was a botanist who invented a system of climate classification. He believed that characteristics of climate determined biological activities (such as ????) o classify climates he developed the climograph, which displays variables of moly temp. and precip. We are looking at the relationship between potential (Source unknown) evaporation and amt. of moisture rcvd at a particular geographical location. E-type climates are locations where avg. mo. Temps are less than 50F. precip. is rcvd. But comes as snow. ET climates are tundra or continental sub-arctic. Warmest mo. temps of 50-32F. EF climates are ice cap or arctic. Warmest mo. = below 32F.
critical analytical research• Note-taking strategies for success (cont.); – Attention to detail with quotation marks (avoiding risk of unintended plagiarism); – Once beyond initial researching stages: keep separate notes for separate parts of your dissertation / project (e.g., one set of notes per chapter / section); – Or try recording your notes (MP3 recorders, etc).
critical analytical research• Critical analytical research/note-taking: the importance of asking questions ‘as you go’: – Look for central ‘themes’ ~ ‘It will be argued…’; – Skim reading to identify potentially relevant passages; – Be selective about information you record: – Seek to discern: (i) analysis (ii) description.
critical analytical research• Constantly question: – ‘is this relevant?’ ‘is it information I (might) need?’ – ‘have I fully understood what the author is saying?’ – ‘Is it “argument”?’ ‘If so, is the source a “messenger” or “originator”?’ If messenger, where are the ideas coming from?
critical analytical research• Constantly question: – ‘What are the issues here?’• The ‘who’ ‘what’ ‘where’ ‘how’ ‘why’ ‘when’ questions;• Be inquisitorial, not adversarial, in asking questions about the author(s) interpretations: – ‘Is the author correct, or is there a flaw in their argument’?
critical analytical research– Preconceptions?– Does date of publication influence the author’s evaluation?– What about place of publication?– Any bias or personal attachment?– Do they have a stake in the subject they are writing about?– Is the information accurate, or are there errors?
critical analytical research– Have subtleties been missed? Has any fundamental perspective been missed?– ‘Is there a reason why the information may have been presented in the way it has?’– Does the nature of the source affect the way it is written and the judgements that are made?– ‘Why was the work written?’ What was the intended audience?– How does it ‘fit’ with argument located elsewhere? Are there similarities? Differences? … and how compatible?
critical analytical research• And ask questions about the author’s evidence: – ‘Do the sources/research approaches used by the writer affect the way he/she writes?’; – ‘Is the evidence well-presented, and are the conclusions drawn the appropriate ones?’ – Has the writer relied on primary or secondary material?; – Is there anything ‘new’ about the evidence utilised?;
critical analytical research• Finally: – ‘What is really being said here?’ – ‘Are there any points the author might be seen to have inadvertently missed (or deliberately avoided)?’
critical reflection• Reflection ‘as you go’: assessing significance, relationships between things you have learnt; identifying argument, noting your view of strength & compatibility of arguments, etc.• Also: ‘post-study reflection’ can be helpful in this process.
Keeping a research journal• Is there a requirement for keeping a research journal or log?• If yes, maintain this on a daily basis …• … make as in-depth/ critical as possible …• … evidence especially useful for discussion in any ‘research methods’ section.
Keeping a research journal• Even if no requirement: a research log can: – Improve your introducing of the topic, your ability to convey exactly what you are interested in/looking for; – improve the focus & coherency of your information gathering, aiding critical reflection as your research develops … and so benefit the focus/coherency of your end project
literature reviews• The purpose of a ‘literature review’;• What the literature review should show: – understanding of the debate related to topic; – where the different explanations/ interpretations/ theories/ suggestions/ ideas originate … – … plus their relative contribution;
literature reviews – any difficulties and problems within the literature or in wider assumptions that will require investigation; – any misconceptions/ misunderstandings• Variations of literature review (over)
literature reviews A BLit. Review Issue-structured Experiment/survey/ options (arts-humanities results-led (placing) model) (i.e., scientific-model)1. … as part of X ? (too large for Introduction intro?)2. … as separate section following Intro?3. … ‘as-you-go’ X: need for a distinct Lit (i.e. dealing with Review section at start; topic-by-topic in main chapters focus on main chapters) own research results
literature reviews A BLit. Review Issue-structured Experiment/survey/ options results-led (arts-humanities model) (i.e., scientific-model)Function Introductory Introductory + If part of Introduction Lit. reviews tend to be section, may be more detailed, as anything from a subsequent chapters paragraph upwards; centre on own If a separate section, experiment or survey would need to be results larger
literature reviews• What types of source should I mention in my literature review?• Being selective about sources & information included;
literature reviews• The importance is identifying the nature & purpose of the source … – Academic? Non-academic? If, ‘non’, what? – ‘messenger’ or ‘originator’ of information? – Intent? To inform? To persuade?
literature reviews • Important: determine the nature of ‘what it is saying’ (or not, as the case may be): e.g., – new idea/argument/research/approach? – a reinterpretation?/an adaptation? – A synthesis? • … and ‘what it represents’: e.g., – In terms of academic understandings? Popular understandings? Misunderstandings? – Old? New? Unusual? Orthodox? Representative? Unrepresentative? views • … and ‘how it relates’ to the knowledge.Deciding what to include .. And what not (see slides / separate handout)
literature reviews• How general or exact-topic-specific? Trajectories of Lit Reviews Wider related Precise topic Topic (for of investi-useful context) gation
literature reviewsExample 1: Lots of literature on your topic? Starton context / bigger picture / essential related Trajectoriesresearch; move swiftly to your precise topic … of 1 Lit Surveys Main Topic Widertopic/context
literature reviews 2 Trajectories of Wider topic/ Lit Surveys context Main TopicExample 2: Not much written on your topic? Start oncontext / bigger picture / related studies, concentratingon parallels, but crucially commenting on (relative) lackof research/published material on your precise topic
literature reviews• Keeping the literature review within bounds;• Should I review books I’ve not read?• How should I structure my review?• Do I ‘criticise’ or merely ‘present’ the literature?• Final tip: see how the academics do it themselves!