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What literatures should I read? How do I find them?

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A slide show from my writing course. Accompanies a post on patter patthomson.net published on Monday 30 November 2015

Published in: Education

What literatures should I read? How do I find them?

  1. 1. what literatures should I read? how do I find them? Pat Thomson patthomson.net @ThomsonPat
  2. 2. starting to accumulate the literatures There are likely to be four major types of literatures that will be useful to you: (1) Literatures that address my topic (2) Literatures that address an aspect of my topic (3) Literatures that address topics like mine (4) Literatures that help explain my topic
  3. 3. literatures that address my topic • Are there any books or papers that have researched the same question? Get them first. then • Generate some key questions about important aspects of your topic that you will need to know about. Look for the papers and books that may provide some answers to these questions. The next slide has an example of how to do this.
  4. 4. Post PhD employment Facts and figures about supply and recruitment. Disciplines? Locations? Who wants to work in HE? Potential applicants’ views The changing role of the academic The alternatives to HE employment What are they? Who takes them up? Choice making- how do people decide what to do? What do universities think needs doing about employment? Career advice? Pathways?
  5. 5. Now think about the wider context for the question you are interested in. What frames, what provides the context, for the question you are interested in? Higher education policy
  6. 6. Now think about the wider context for the question you are interested in. What frames, what provides the context, for the question you are interested in? Higher education policy Type and location of university Public policy agendas Labour market
  7. 7. Now think about the wider context for the question you are interested in. What frames, what provides the context, for the question you are interested in? Higher education policy Type and location of university Public policy agendas Labour market Histories of the production of hierarchies of HE Audit and funding regimes Knowledge workers and professions
  8. 8. What other studies might speak to your question? There may be studies that address a topic that overlaps with yours or that are like yours in some way. Looking at some of this material can be helpful. It can alert you to things that may be left out of those studies that are on your question. Or it may have a different and potentially generative take. literatures that address topics like mine
  9. 9. Perhaps there are studies that also look at employment in this context – potentially studies around employment trajectories into professions, or the employment of particular disciplinary communities. They may not look at PhD or postgraduates per se, but there is an overlap. Public policy agendas Labour market Audit and funding regimes Knowledge workers and professions
  10. 10. literatures that offer theoretical explanations • Some social theory is laid over the results after the research is done. “This is what I found, now how can it be explained?” • Other social theory shapes the way in which the research is conducted. • It is important to understand where you are going with theory • Including this as an explicit part of your literatures work give you the option of using theory in either way.
  11. 11. Now think again about these three types of literatures. What kinds of explanations have they offered about their results? Are any of these likely to be useful to you? Think forward. How might the results of your research be explained? What theoretical resources could you use to provide an explanation for the ‘reality’ you ‘find’ in your research?
  12. 12. There are a range of social theories which address the context for postgraduate employment as shown below – knowledge economy, globalisation, neoliberalism, late modernity etc. What do you now need to read for yourself and not just get second hand? Public policy agendas Labour market Audit and funding regimes Knowledge workers and professions
  13. 13. And there is also a range of theories which position what individuals (postgraduates in our example) choose to do within a wider context There are studies either of postgraduate employment, or studies which are like it, which use: 1. Bourdieu – field, capitals and habitus 2. Foucault – discourse and discursive assemblages 3. Socio-material analyses – the networked assemblages of actors and actants 4. Reflexive modernisation – choice biographies and risk 5. Audit society, data and performativity 1-3 will shape the research design.
  14. 14. how to locate these various literatures? • Start with the key words in your initial questions – postgraduate/PhD employment, higher education policy, academic work. • Use google scholar first of all. You can also try the major journal publishers websites. • Look to see if there are any meta-reviews, state of the art commentaries, special issue of journals – these will give you the key references and some of the debates. • There are also now a lot of idiot guide types or ‘about’ books which will give you a quick overview of the way that a topic can be explained, or what a theorist has to offer.

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