Writing a literature review


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PhD training workshop material on writing a literature review for Edinburgh Napier University research students.

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Writing a literature review

  1. 1. Writing a literature review Professor Hazel Hall School of Computing
  2. 2. Professor Hazel Hall  @hazelh  http://hazelhall.org Slides on SlideShare at:  http://about.me/hazelh http://slideshare.net/hazelhall  h.hall@napier.ac.uk  0131 455 2760
  3. 3. Workshop focusWorkshop focus is on writing a literature review  Not on how to identify material on which to base a literature review  covered in training on literature searching  Not on how to evaluate, critique or analyse the output of material gathered as the result of a literature search  covered in training on critical reading…but on how to present the analysis that you have completed
  4. 4. Literature review In which What are the What have been the Do parallel subject areas main main research literatures exist has the topic questions? for this topic? perspectives been studied? on this topic in previous What are the main What are the key research? conclusions on concepts in this area? previous research in this area? Coherent synthesisWho are How is this topic of past and present Which existing these approached by research in the Where are the gaps in work could be“others”? others? literature? extended? domain of study Where is existing Which aspects of this knowledge “thin”? Which work are of mostdiscussions? relevance to my What are the key Which work is study? areas of debate in this subject to area? challenge? Which sub- Which writers? themes?
  5. 5. PerspectivesHazel  PhD external examiner  PhD supervisor  PhD graduate  Active researcher involved in peer assessment of journal, conference and research proposal submissionsStudents  PhD students going through the process, supervised by a range of staff  Critical readers of the published work of others
  6. 6. AgendaMain themes to be covered  Challenges associated with writing literature reviews  Purposes of writing literature reviews  Anticipated standard of content of literature review  Anticipated standard of presentation of material in a literature review  Common problems with literature reviews  Challenges revisited
  8. 8. Challenges - exerciseLet’s start with a couple of questions  What do you consider to be three main challenges of writing a literature review?  Why do these challenges cause you difficulties?
  9. 9. Classification of challengesAs a group, we will attempt to classify the challengesThese will be revisited later – with (we hope!) some strategies on how to address them
  11. 11. “Output” purposes of the literature review 1Requirement of the PhD  Versions required for interim stages of PhD registration at Napier  Especially important for the transfer report  Expected as a chapter in the submitted thesis
  12. 12. “Output” purposes of the literature review 2The literature review chapter  Part of your original contribution to the extension of knowledge at the forefront of your field  Demonstration that you are capable of carrying out research in a systematic manner:  conducting literature searches  recording output according to recognised standards  Evidence of your independent critical powers  to read critically  to write analytically  to draw on the extant literature to conceptualise, design and implement a large research study  Proof that you understand applicable techniques for advanced levels of academic enquiry
  13. 13. “Process” purpose of the literature reviewPart of your apprenticeship in research 1  You improve your skills as a researcher  You enhance your writing skills  in general  in the discourse of your domain  You gain subject expertise as your knowledge grows through absorbing the work of others  particularly useful if you are later involved in data collection with domain specialists  You grow in independence as you find your own “voice”  You learn  through writing  through articulating your ideas
  14. 14. “Process” purpose of the literature reviewPart of your apprenticeship in research 2  Knowledge gain helps direct your empirical research so that  You can make decisions on the scope and feasibility of practical work  You can define/redefine research questions, and protect yourself from “wheel reinvention”  You can devise the evaluation criteria for your own research output
  15. 15. Research evaluation and the literature reviewLater chapters will refer back to literature review  Do your findings confirm those of others?  Does your work extend that of others?  Does your work provide new meaning to the work of others?  Does your work break new ground?  Does your work raise issues about the methodological choices made in previous studies?  Does your work challenge existing theoretical approaches to your subject?
  17. 17. Coherent synthesis of past & present researchThe reader needs to understand the context into which your work fits  Thematic line of argument driven by the priorities of the research in question  Trends in the topic’s treatment identified, e.g.  By geography  By sector  By key researchers  Over time  (Not author-by-author, format-by-format, simple chronological description)  Strong links provided across published work, as relevant to the main themes of your study
  18. 18. Trends in a topic’s treatment by key researchers Lineage of social network analysis Gestalt theory Structural-functional anthropology Field theory, sociometry Warner, Mayo Gluckman Group dynamics Homans Barnes, Bott, Nadel Graph theory Mitchell Harvard structuralists Social network analysis
  19. 19. Theorists and themes of social exchange Anthropology Dominant themes Sociology Behavioral Dominant themes psychologyEarly Malinowski Gift-giving as a moralC20th Mauss obligation.1950s Homans Thibaut & Exchange is ubiquitous. Kelley Trust generates exchange and trust.1960s Levi-Strauss Shared with sociologists. Homans Exchanges are non- Blau negotiable, reciprocal & sequential. Focus on actions by individuals in dyadic relations. Trends in a topic’s1970s Ekeh Social cohesion ac hieved through social Emerson Granovetter Power. Focus on relations. treatment by key exchange. Social network analysis. Heath Rewards and punishment. researchers, in subject1980s Cheal Gift giving for reproducing social Cook & Emerson Power & power proc ess es. domains, over time relationships.Current Godelier Relevanc e of gift giving Molm Coercive power. (Based on an analysis of Godbout in modern societies, e.g. the nature of what is exchanged; charitable Lawler Bargaining. 13 sources) donations as a f orm of Lawler Quality of exchanges. gift giving; power of Yoon marginalized Uzzi participants in gift ec onomies; wealth, patterns of gift giving and gift consumption as indicators of social position and power; univers ality of the general logic of exchange and reciprocity
  20. 20. Trends in aspects of topic’s treatment according to research approaches and their underlying valuesTheories on managing consultation processesAdapted from Newman, D. (2008, January). E-consultation, from citizens to parliaments. Internalresearch seminar presented at Edinburgh Napier University.Type of process Research approach (example) Focus (example) Values fromDemocratic Deliberative democracy Relationships between Democratic theory government and citizens in consultation processesParticipative Social exclusion Who controls engagement Participants’ needsAdministrative Public administration Efficiency and effectiveness of Consulters’ needs consultation leading to decisionsDecision making Normative and descriptive Decision processes and speed Organisational objectives decision making in psychology of decision and managementCommunicative Computer mediated Interactions in communication Models of communication communication activities processesKnowledge transfer Knowledge management Barriers to organisational Ideals of knowledge learning sharing in communities
  21. 21. Coherent synthesis of past & present researchThe reader expects you to have done the hard work of evaluating the extant literature  You assess the value of the literature reviewed at a number of levels  individual papers (material that is “significant”)  collections of material, e.g. by defined groupings such as sector  You emphasise limitations of existing knowledge  Identifying gaps in the literature to promote the value of your research  Confirm that your work is worthwhile, timely, and that the investment in your PhD study (time and money) has been put to good use
  22. 22. Coherent synthesis of past & present researchThe reader needs to be convinced that the work is complete in terms of material evaluated  “Completeness” depends on clear definition of scope  “Completeness” evident in citations that are  Highly relevant  Plentiful  Accurate  Precise  Up-to-date
  23. 23. Framing of the synthesisSign-posting value of strong introductions and conclusions  Introduction  What will be found here  Its scope  Why its inclusion is necessary as a preface to the discussion of your full research study  Conclusion  Statement of the strongest messages of the chapter  Implications made clear, particularly on the value of the PhD study as a whole  Clear links to the next chapter
  24. 24. High-note end to conclusion“On the basis of everything that you have just read there is absolutely no question that the past 3 years of my life have been extremely worthwhile dedicated to the pursuit of this fabulous study. And, guess what lucky reader? In the next chapter you will learn all about how I planned and executed my empirical research!”
  26. 26. Presentation prioritiesLine of argument  Accessible and easy to follow  Lively and engaging  Evident in the text of the narrative, rather than over-reliance on headings as sign-posts  Provided as an analysis in the narrative, with descriptive/illustrative material “demoted” to tables and/or diagrams  Leaving the analysis to the reader is dangerous: apart from annoying the reader, he/she may come up with a completely different perspective from yours  Complete, yet succinct, with repetition minimised due to sensible use of cross referencing
  27. 27. Critical reading – the focusWhen reading academic work you are evaluating the level of argument presented Just as the content of this slide Just as the content of this slide applies to your efforts to read applies to your efforts to read critically, ititsets the standard for the critically, sets the standard for theLook out for presentation of your own line of presentation of your own line of argument. argument.  Claims/conclusions  Reasons/interpretations of data that lead to the above  Evidence on which above is built  Any qualifications for the claims/conclusions
  28. 28. Logic of argumentThe early work of X (X, date) on Y is fundamental to Claims/conclusionsresearch in this field.The results of his experimental work carried out in the Justification of claimearly 1940s are widely cited (for example, A, date; B,date, C, date).Indeed, up until 1970, a number of conferences were Detailed evidence of claimdedicated to further exploration of his theoretical work,such as the series entitled International perspectiveson Y held in the US.In recent years, however, this work has been ignored, Qualifications of claimmainly due to developments in computing, and is nowregarded as less important than once believed.
  29. 29. Logic of argumentThe early work of X (X, date) on Y is fundamental to Claims/conclusionsresearch in this field. qu e t ion , s essiton s,oThe results of his experimental work carried outer’ss qu Justification of claim d en t o r a inr’the te rea der B,orkkop en t edate; w or opearly 1940s are widely cited (for ntitccpa teA, you r w i i ipa a e A example, ve you An ot le av : do n ot lns succhass:date, C, date). e do n tio ns su h a quesstio ?” que t there ?”?” in he o reIndeed, up until 1970, a number of conferencesurrpo in Detailed ?” yyowereou thinkksso evidence of claim ou p t isdedicated to further exploration of• his theoretical work,u thine?” “Wha t is akessyyo ha m e o • “Whperspectives i n c ”such as the series entitled International hat mak ur evvden ce? “W a •• “W t ide yo r eon Y held in the US. hat tiss y” u ••“W ha at? ” i o “W wh t? aIn recent years, however, this work ••“So whignored, Qualifications of claim “So has beenmainly due to developments in computing, and is nowregarded as less important than once believed.
  30. 30. Well-presented work inspires confidenceStandards  Formal, grammatical English  Appropriate deployment of the vocabulary of the subject domain  Consistent use of tenses  Decide a cut-off for what is “current” and what is not  References presented according to recognised standardYour voice  Your interpretation demands your words – not a patchwork of quotations (or paraphrased paragraphs) of other authors
  32. 32. Problems with what to review (scope)Knowing where to start,(e.g. wide then narrow,or narrow then wide?)and what to include I don’t know exactly what I am going to researchKnowing when to stop because I have not yet read the relevant literature,literature searching Indeed everything seems relevant! I don’t know whether what I am reading is really relevant because I have not yet decided exactly what it is I am going to research.Knowing when to stop“perfecting” the fileKnowing how far toventure into theliterature of associateddomains
  33. 33. What to review (scope): “solutions” 1Knowing when to stop Use review papers first, “read” bibliographies, recognise reference (as wellliterature searching as content) saturation point If you have identified much literature, and know that there is even more to uncover, it may be the case that your chosen topic is too broad. Consider limits: a particular influence on your main theme, a time-limited treatment. Also bear in mind that this will need to be justified in the thesis. Switch from “historic” search to “current” search Build safety nets with alert services, both automated and human You will reach a stage where you switch from building your literature review in an emergent fashion, to enhancing its content through additional of material from directed reading Deadlines should force you to stop anyway Bear in mind initial research aims and main research questions Take supervisor advice
  34. 34. What to review (scope): “solutions” 2Knowing where to start Start somewhere – everyone has this problem at the beginningwriting, (e.g. wide then Establish how much material already exists at each “level” of the topicnarrow, or narrow then Experiment, e.g. mind-map in both directionswide?) and what toinclude Focus on what “bothers” you Make thematic notes according to a structure that mirrors the main themes of your study Aim to know in depth what you are doing, and in breadth what is relevant to what you are doing Remember critical reading advice on long and medium shots, and close- ups Bear in mind initial research aims and main research questions Take supervisor advice
  35. 35. What to review (scope): “solutions” 3Knowing how far to Tread very carefully hereventure into the Increase your familiarity first by looking at basic material such as domain-literature of associated specific dictionaries and text-booksdomains Travel with those from your domain who have explored in this region before Bear in mind initial research aims and main research questions Take supervisor advice
  36. 36. What to review (scope): “solutions” 4Knowing when to stop Perfectionists need to recognise the file as a perpetual beta that will be“perfecting” the file revisited (and re-edited – sometimes painfully) several times it prior to submission Consider whether you are really adding value to the file or simply using the literature review as a form of security blanket or excuse for procrastinating – you should be multitasking by this stage Deadlines should force you to stop anyway Bear in mind initial research aims and main research questions Take supervisor advice
  37. 37. Problems with under-researched workNot enough previouswork is reviewedInappropriate sourcematerial is covered,e.g. key texts aremissing from theanalysis - often at theexpense of lessvaluable material;recent material ismissing (new papers,updated versions ofconference paperscited); over-reliance onsecondary citationsBias in treatment due tolack of immersion in (orengagement with) theliterature of the domainand/or ignorance(deliberate or not) ofconflicting views
  38. 38. Solutions for under-researched workNot enough previous Ensure that your literature searching technique is thorough by, for example,work is reviewed by taking advantage of all the fee-based search services that Edinburgh Napier subscribes too (as well as Google Scholar) and using social mediaInappropriate source as a source of current awarenessmaterial is covered,e.g. key texts are Conceive literature searching as an on-going processmissing from the Use human agents for identifying relevant new material: your subjectanalysis - often at the librarian, your supervisor, your peers, authors already identified as relevantexpense of less Annotate your literature review so that you know which sources to recheckvaluable material; for updated versionsrecent material is Wherever possible, seek out and use the original sourcesmissing (new papers, Be thorough in your treatment. Discuss conflicting views with others, e.g.updated versions of supervisor, contacts at conferences, peers onlineconference paperscited); over-reliance onsecondary citationsBias in treatment due tolack of immersion in (orengagement with) theliterature of the domainand/or ignorance(deliberate or not) ofconflicting views
  39. 39. Problems with under-developed workMaterial is simplysummarisedMaterial has not beenfitted to the needs ofthe study: overuse ofquotations andparaphrasing – studenthands over the powerof authorityTreatment does nothold together as a“story”Work looks like abusiness report
  40. 40. Problems with under-developed workMaterial is simply Remember the “So what?” factorsummarised Resist the temptation to work with photocopies/pdfs of source material nextMaterial has not been to you. Instead develop your line of argument from fully digested (and wellfitted to the needs of referenced) notes derived from the source materialthe study: overuse of Use quotations only for instances where what is said is expressed in aquotations and particularly interesting way, or when the originator of the quotation is ofparaphrasing – student particular interesthands over the power Build a line of argument that is yours as relevant to your study (and notof authority author-by-author, not source format-by-format, not a simple chronological treatment)Treatment does not Remember that you are building an argument (not cataloguing a library)hold together as a“story” Provide a strong introduction, sign-posting, and conclusion that tie the contents of the literature review to the research aims, and emphasise itsWork looks like a purpose and valuebusiness report Avoid short sections, bullet lists and multiple headings: the structure of your work should be evident through the line of argument presented
  42. 42. Challenges revisitedExercise  Reconsider your responses to the exercise and possible means of addressing these challenges
  43. 43. Professor Hazel Hall  @hazelh  http://hazelhall.org Slides on SlideShare at:  http://about.me/hazelh http://slideshare.net/hazelhall  h.hall@napier.ac.uk  0131 455 2760