Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach

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TIL/T&P Masterclass by postdoctoral researcher Raymond Hogendoorn about litereature review.

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Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach

  1. 1. Literature Surveys: A MethodologicalApproachDr. R. (Raymond) G. Hoogendoorn13/08/12 Delft University of Technology Challenge the future
  2. 2. Outline•  Problem description;•  Description, research questions and objectives;•  Text plan;•  Design a search plan;•  Execution of the search plan; Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 2
  3. 3. Problem description•  First you have to establish what the problem actually is;•  So… identification of the problem along with the magnitude of the problem;•  In this phase you also already have to think about your target audience!!•  And already think about some secondary conditions (language, format etc.); Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 3
  4. 4. Problem description2•  A problem description is important as it guides us in the literature search;•  By studying the state-of-the-art, we can therefore note that: •  There is a noticeable gap in the results; •  When the results of several inquiries disagree; •  When a fact exists in the form of unexplained information;•  That knowledge indicates that there is something we don’t know;•  We become aware of a problem when we ask ‘why’ a fact is so;•  Science does not only consist of knowledge, but also of systemized knowledge;•  Unsolvable problems: •  Unstructured problems: problem which intend is unclear and the domain to which they refer is too amorphous; it is impossible to determine what the relevant observations would be… •  Inadequately defined terms and operational definitions; Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 4
  5. 5. Problem description3•  The topic of a literature survey consists of the general construct you are going to research;•  General form of a problem description:I investigate [TOPIC] because I want to know [GENERAL QUESTION] in order to [OBJECTIVE] Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 5
  6. 6. Operational definitions•  In the problem description you should provide operational definitions;•  The main functions of a good definition are: •  To clarify the phenomenon under investigation; •  To allow us to communicate with each other in an unambiguous manner;•  This can be dealt with through the operational definition of the terms;•  An operational definition is one that indicates that a certain phenomenon exists and does so by specifying precisely how the phenomenon is measured. Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 6
  7. 7. Research questions•  You continue with formulating a research question (including sub questions) / hypotheses;•  Criteria of research questions / hypotheses: •  Must be testable; •  Should be in general harmony with other research questions / hypotheses; •  Should be parsimonious: Occam’s razor; •  Should have logical simplicity: logical unity and comprehensiveness; •  Should be coherent with the problem; •  Should be expressed in a quantified form; •  Should have a large number of consequences and should be general in scope; Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 7
  8. 8. Types of research questions•  Types of research questions:•  Descriptive: determination without connection to consequences;•  Explanatory (what is the cause of…..);•  Evaluating: investigates whether something meets certain requirements;•  Advising;•  Prescriptive (which procedure has to be followed in order to…); Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 8
  9. 9. Pitfalls in formulating subquestions•  The sub questions should together answer the main research question;•  The sub questions should form a logical constellation with the main research questions;•  The sub questions may not introduce new problems or terms! Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 9
  10. 10. Research objectives•  The research objective often represents the relevance of the research to be conducted;•  Always mention the scientific and practical relevance explicitly!•  Example:I investigate the applicability of the Transtheoretical Model (Prochaskaet al.) because I want to know: whether this model is applicable to aggressive driving [RESEARCH QUESTION] in order to acquire insight into the boundary conditions of this model. [OBJECTIVE] Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 10
  11. 11. Pitfalls research objectives•  Possible pitfalls:•  Mixed up topic and material;•  No research objective is provided;•  The research objective is too broad: the objective is too far away from the research question….•  The research objective is too narrow: the objective and research questions are almost identical;•  The research objective is not relevant for the intended audience; Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 11
  12. 12. So… summary of requirements•  A literature survey should contain a research objective and at least one main research question / hypothesis;•  The objective represents the scientific and / or practical relevance of the survey;•  The research question is specific; it provides a direction for the research to be conducted;•  The main research question is divided into sub questions (see previous requirements);•  The research questions contain terms which are known in the scientific field; Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 12
  13. 13. Text PlanFrom these research questions is it easy to derive a general textplan!Example:Question:What is the relationship between the incidence of car-accidents andan aggressive driving style?General text plan:Discuss the scientific literature with regard to the relationship between theincidents of car-accidents and an aggressive driving style. Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 13
  14. 14. Design a search plan•  First you have to figure out what the requirements are of the result of the literature survey; •  Within which scientific disciplines must be searched? •  What kind of publications do you need? •  What is the maximum age of the publications taken into account? •  Do you only consider domestic publications or also international publications?•  Next you determine the keywords you are going to use with your search;•  For this you use the research questions (and sub questions) as a basis! Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 14
  15. 15. Design a search plan2•  Use a thesaurus to generate synonyms!•  Report the used keywords in your report (under research method);•  What kind of sources do you need?•  Can you name some examples of possible sources? Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 15
  16. 16. Design a search plan3•  Main types of literature:•  Books;•  Articles;•  Repons (research reports);•  Conference proceedings;•  Official and legal publications;•  Reviews;•  But also: Discuss with fellow students / colleagues! Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 16
  17. 17. Execution of the search plan•  Search management is important;•  Use an electronic database to store the results of your search;•  E.g. EndNote, BibDesk (LaTeX);•  Next you evaluate and analyze, and further process your text plan!•  In other words: you are going to determine which publications are useful!•  Use the general text plan to structure the found publications;•  Add general summaries of the relevant pubs to the text plan; Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 17
  18. 18. Execution of the search plan2•  Use search engines, such as: •  Scopus; •  Google Scholar; •  etc,.•  The number of citations are important!!! Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 18
  19. 19. Reporting•  The elaborate text plan is the basis for your literature survey;•  You start with writing a raw concept of the report;•  You take those parts of the summaries from the text plan you need to answer the research questions;•  It is more than just a copy – paste of the text! Interpret!•  Wait a couple of days an look at it again critically;•  Next transform the raw concept to structured text; take care that the train of thought is clear!•  Have the structured text proofread by a fellow student / colleague!•  Finally transform this structured text to a text with the required lay out. Insert the necessary tables and figures; Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 19
  20. 20. Questions?Contact information:Dr. R. (Raymond) G. HoogendoornDelft University of TechnologyCivil Engineering and GeosciencesTransport and Planningr.g.hoogendoorn@tudelft.nl Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 20
  21. 21. Thank you for your attention!!Contact information:Dr. R. (Raymond) G. HoogendoornDelft University of TechnologyCivil Engineering and GeosciencesTransport and Planningr.g.hoogendoorn@tudelft.nl Literature Surveys: A Methodological Approach 21

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