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RTP 18-19 - Writing a Literature Review - Dr Rosamund Oates - 24-10-18


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Dr Rosamund Oates' PowerPoint for the Research Training Programme (RTP) 2018-19 Core Skills session.

This session will look at the process of writing a literature review, often the first piece of writing you will do for your PhD. The session will show you what a literature review is, what you should be trying to write and how to go about doing it. Tom McGrath (History, Politics and Philosophy), in the second year of his PhD, will talk about his experience of writing a literature review.

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RTP 18-19 - Writing a Literature Review - Dr Rosamund Oates - 24-10-18

  1. 1. Writing a Literature Review: PAHC Dr Rosamund Oates @drrosamundoates Thomas McGrath
  2. 2. Our Research Dr Rosamund Oates Reader in History • Communities of Print • Puritan Culture • Origins of Sign Language in Early Modern Europe.
  3. 3. Our Research… • Tom • Second year history PhD student •
  4. 4. Your Research • What are you working on?
  5. 5. What is a literature review? • It gives some background and context to your own work. You need to show how your research fits into the big picture, relating it to what has been done before. It surveys the existing work on the topic of your research. Its purpose is to provide the reader with the current state of your research field and to critically evaluate existing literature. It can become a project in itself. It is an important showcase of your talents of: understanding, interpretation, analysis, clarity of thought, synthesis, and development of argument. The process of conducting and reporting your literature review can help you clarify your own thoughts about your study. It can also establish a framework within which to present and analyse the findings.
  6. 6. What does a good literature review look like? • situates your research focus within the context of the wider academic community in your field; • reports your critical review of the relevant literature; • identifies a gap within that literature that your research will attempt to address; • Identifies sources that will be helpful to your research and, depending on the project, provide background context or frameworks for your analysis
  7. 7. A literature review is NOT: • A compilation of all material related to your research field, regardless of its relevance to your project • An annotated list of books and articles • A summary of material without critical commentary • A narrative about how your field developed • A book review…
  8. 8. Where to start? First of all.. Read a few general introductions to your topic and you’ll start to get an overview of the key ideas and theories, who developed them, and when. Find the world-changing literature • Once you know who the world changers were, you can go in search of their papers. • understand these key concepts, as they will help you decipher other papers which built upon these ideas. • Sometimes, those world-changing papers can be tough to read, but as long as you know roughly what they did and understand the key principle, that’s enough.
  9. 9. Getting in deeper…. Get Specific • You have probably identified your main themes, so build your reading (and your chapter) around these Filter • Look at the number of citations as an indication of quality • Scan the abstract and make a quick decision as to whether it will be relevant or not • Don’t be afraid to reject papers. You can always come back to them later, but you have to start with something manageable.
  10. 10. Tips for finding those books and articles • Search, search and search • Read Bibliographies • Ask your supervisor • Try using the library search engine for articles, books and book reviews • Find books in the library that are relevant and check them out. • Read the abstracts online and download and/or print those articles that relate to your area of research • Set a specific time frame for how long you will search. It should not take more than two or three dedicated time sessions How do you find material?
  11. 11. Help! I’m overwhelmed by material…. • You won’t be able to read everything. • Make sure you’ve read the key texts – if necessary check with your tutor Filter again • You might not be able to read everything in depth immediately. From the papers you selected, give them a ranking A, B, or C. • A = must read, highly relevant, high quality • B = unsure, probably relevant, but not yet sure how • C = probably irrelevant, not what you thought it was when you read the title
  12. 12. Reading and taking notes Note-taking is an important skill Ros: • Summarise an argument • Page numbers • Careful with quotations Tom: • Page by page • Handwritten vs. typed • Keep them safe What do you do?
  13. 13. How to store your information • Endnote • Zotero • Menderly • Refworks • Readcube • A running bibliography • Index cards Any other suggestions?
  14. 14. Endnote •
  15. 15. What am I looking for? After you have immersed yourself in the material through introductions, the most important texts and (perhaps) text books, you can do more ‘focussed’ reading. Skim books and article and look specifically for these five things: • Claims, conclusions, and findings about the constructs you are investigating • Definitions of terms • Calls for follow-up studies relevant to your project • Gaps you notice in the literature • Disagreement about the constructs you are investigating
  16. 16. Writing the Literature Review • Main themes and arguments • Write, re-write and write again
  17. 17. Dos and Don’ts of the literature review • Dos • Write little – write often • Who, What, When, Why and How • Keep a running bibliography • Take critical notes • Ask your supervisory team (esp. practice based) Don’ts • Feel the need to read EVERYTHING on your subject • Have broad topics or keywords • Get bored • Take feedback personally • Forget you will be an expert in your field • Think it is all over
  18. 18. Now I’ve written it, it’s done for good, right? • No • RD2 • As your ideas and thoughts evolve so will your argument; your sources; and your reading.