Research: Doing a Literature Review? Some thoughts…

If you are going to do some research, you will definitely need to ground your activities in pre-existing work. You can find your research question by identifying a gap in the literature – i.e. something that hasn’t been done yet, or to answer a question raised by previous work. Or you can find your research question by grounding it in your own practice in the classroom, and then consult literature to see what others have already done in this regard, and either try ideas they suggest, or seek to validate or disprove what they have done.

Your literature review, main content and critical analysis will be a really important part of your work. It doesn’t just happen as a one hit wonder before you start. But it will start before you engage in research, and it will continue until after you have finished and are writing up your research. You will find that after having actually started your research, the findings you generate will raise new questions, causing you to consult new bodies of literature, and also leading you to revise and assess your original research questions and methods.

So, here are some prompts to help you get started with a literature review:

Have you included a review of the key literature, content and engaged in a critical analysis in your research?

Does it contain the following:
• a chronologically or thematically organised review?
• clear evidence provided for the statements made?
• discussion of the relationship between the various theories, concepts and ideas outlined?
• discussion of the relevance of the latter to the aims and objectives of the research carried out?
• a detailed critique of views and conclusions within previously published work to enable synthesis of ideas and insights?
• well directed analysis with critical evaluation of the quality and characteristics of the data?
• clear evidence of creativity and originality in the main content of your endeavour?

You could engage in a narrative, descriptive literature review, or a systematic review, or a combination. There are pro’s&con’s for each.

Have fun!

3 thoughts on “Research: Doing a Literature Review? Some thoughts…

  1. This is probably too obvious to state but I’ve known people to fail to do it causing major headaches. While reviewing literary it make sure you do your References as you go along. You’ll be glad you’ve done it when you get to the home stretch.


  2. I’m not an academic but tools such as Bookends and Devonthink for Mac in tandem with procite can also be very powerful. I just like making databases of “stuff” related to education and never feel the need to do it academically but this was a very useful blog – thanks.


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