#AcWri, #LTEC6040, #phdchat, Research, Research Methods

Search and Organize: The Literature Review #acwri #LTEC6040

 

As you launch into a new research project, it is critical to think about how you will SEARCH and STORE an empirical literature search. Much of this organization starts with identifying a well-defined topic of study, and then identifying literature and scholarship around the previous work in this area. This process should support how you define your research topic scope/focus (e.g. inclusions/exclusions), established research methods (e.g.data collection/analysis), existing results/findings, and potential research suggestions for further investigations.

Step 1. Identify and Select a Research Topic to Study

For my #LTEC6040 early career scholars, the focus of study is geared towards digital learning/teaching. To prepare for a literature search, I suggest a few preliminary steps to SELECT and IDENTIFY a specific TOPIC for their research projects:

  • Interest: Find something you want to know more about so you remain interested and engaged in the project investigation. This might be related to your research agenda, either for your thesis/dissertation or general interests of study.
  • Ideas: Browse current periodicals (e.g. The Atlantic, Education: NPRNew York Times, Time), and online news resources for trends in the field you are looking at for digital teaching/learning (e.g. Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle, Ed Surge, etc.).
  • Scope: Is your topic manageable? Avoid choosing a research topic that is too broad (too much information) or too narrow (too specialized/new/limited in appeal to find enough information). Consider limiting the time span, identifying a specific digital learning setting, or limiting this to a particular sample population/course/instructional method/lens.
  • Time: Choose a research topic you can work on for a set period of time. For example, this semester (3-4 months) is the length of time to set up a small-scale study, complete the ethics review, recruit a sample population, and start on a draft of a journal article. Always plan enough time to go through the empirical literature as you prepare the investigation and draft the paper.
  • Approach: There are different approaches possible for each research topic. Scholarly papers can analyze or explain a concept, narrate events, design, or developments in the field, or even argue for or against theory or idea. Additionally, you might choose to focus on a philosophical, historical, sociological, psychological, scientific, etc. approach.
  • Perspective:  Research topics can be examined through a variety of scholarly perspectives. Each research perspective or lens requires different sources of information so it is important to establish what aspect of the topic interests you most from the start.
  • Clarity: Be clear about the topic you are researching. Your research topic might need some adjustment as you gather information; however, you should always have a well-defined focus for your topic of search to ensure you stay on track and avoid wasting time with your literature search.

Step 2. Find Scholarly and Peer-Reviewed Evidence

Once this RESEARCH TOPIC is identified, next step is the literature review. This is critical part of research helps you to identify scholarly publications with evidence and investigation processes for your topic. Hart (1998) believes the literature review is an evaluative process is to determine how this empirical publications to answer the  following QUESTIONS for your scholarly search:

  • What are the key sources?
  • What are the major issues and debates around the topic?
  • What are the key theories, concepts, and ideas?
  • What are the epistemological and ontological grounds fro the discipline?
  • What are the political standpoints?
  • What are the origins of this topic?
  • What are the definitions involved with this topic?
  • How is knowledge on the topic structured and organized?
  • How have approaches to these questions increase our understanding and knowledge?

Step 3. Limit and Refine the Empirical Search

To help you keep your focus and direction for the literature search, it is critical to have a definitive argument/focus for your study. To best evaluate the scholarly works, Belcher (2009) offers suggestions to refine your literature review by reading materials that contribute to the central argument of your manuscript and limiting the following items for your search:

  • Set a time limit:  i.e. read nothing written over 10 years ago, five, or two (depending on your topic of research)
  • Language: limit to articles in English (or designated languages/preferences)
  • Questionable publishing outlets e.g. trade journals, non-peer reviewed, some conference proceedings not always suitable
  • Different geographical areas (by author country of origin)
  • Different time periods (related to your genre — this might apply to humanities more)
  • Different kinds of experiments (by your methods of study/research)
  • Different kinds of participants (by research sample type, size, etc)
  • Different variables (e.g. gender, age, etc.)
  • Without your keywords in the title or abstract – focus your search for these items
  • Non-electronic formats – if you can’t access the research from home/library resources

Step 4. Establish a System to Organize the Research Collection

Be sure to keep track of papers collected into a system of review. This might involve storing files, taking notes/annotations, and organizing articles into a citation system. I suggest setting this up early in your research life and I would definitely encourage you to use citation management software to track, store, and annotate articles you find for your literature search. Here are two platforms I use to tame the citations and literature collections [Learn more about citation management via the Research in Action podcast, episode no. 36]:

  1. Mendeley is a combination of a desktop application and a website which helps you manage, share and discover both content and contacts in research. You can store, save, annotate, and share documents with scholarly collaborators, plus manage and sync your references with a team in a group, or for yourself. You can easily drop in PDFs into the system to tag, cite, highlight, and organize your literature review. This is an excellent tool for team research and writing projects working from a distance.
  2. Zotero is utilized by a number of scholars as it is “an easy use tool easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.” Zotero hosts research groups and individuals who want to connect and collaborate with other scholars OR discover the works of others. It contains several disciplines through which a user can keep updated on and search for people to connect with. It is free to sign up and you download it to your computer.

Step 5. Search, Track, and Locate Relevant Papers

Find a way to organize and keep track of what you are searching (terms, keywords, filters, search strings, etc.) and where you might be finding these resources. Depending on your institution or access, you might not have a way to find ALL THE LITERATURE. Here are a few ways to expand your literature expedition and get access to empirical papers beyond your reach:

  • Search, Track and Set Alerts: Record the different search strings to recall what you find and perhaps to set up an alert (e.g. in Scopus, Summons, Google Scholar, etc.) that is relevant for this research topic or methodology. Here’s a screenshot of a Google spreadsheet for search for one of my projects: Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 1.15.32 PM
  • Google Scholar search the “Cited by ###” section of the site: this is to identify other relevant paper on topic or learn more about this research thread, i.e. a discovery search for missing literature. This will also bring about the “grey” research that is not indexed or part of a database search.
  •  Use Backward & forward referencing search method: for collecting and reviewing publications to be inclusive of empirical literature. This might bring about relevant publications to be included in your own review and give insights to your topic OR the research methodology.
  • Search for Publications Beyond Reach: Articles that you are not able to access at your institutional library or databases I have access to, I will tweet #iCanHazPDF [in action #icanhazpdf] to ask my professional network on Twitter OR even connect to the author (by email, social network, etc.) to ask for a pre-print copy. Beyond this you can find articles via other academic search engines with access, such as Sci-Hub, Semantic Scholar, and many more research databases.

Step 6. Process and Understand the Literature Gathered

Beyond these methods for storing papers, think about how you will process and organize your literature collection. You might have notes drafted as you review to identify themes, issues, and concepts you want to include for your own paper. Here are few tips/tricks I’ve honed as I search for literature:

  • Take Fewer Notes: Tag articles in the software,  group articles into specific folders, skim abstracts to code/organize, and identify literature for easy recall and use later. Have a system for your own tags or references to recall/use later when writing. Make meaningful labels that connect to your specific research focus/scope.
  • Create an Annotated Bibliography: For smaller literature searches (or team support efforts) start a reference list of your citations in APA 6th Edition format with a brief line or two making about the study, methods, findings + personal thoughts on articles/methods you read for each citation. Create annotations on this reference list, these are notes, on why this paper is relevant and could be helpful for your own research.
  • Concept Mapping the Literature: It might help you to create a visual or graphic organizer to map out these ideas and piece items together for your own manuscript. This might be digital or even analog — break out the markers, crayons, post-its and more! Check out the great suggestions Pat Thomson offers on “spaces between the literature” for reviewing research; a.k.a. bushwhacking
  • Don’t Wait to Write: From the annotations and notes you have made on the collected papers, start organizing how and where they might fit into your article draft. These preliminary notes might be rough; however, if you pop some of your literature into an outline of a paper this will help you write a draft of an article when you have your data collected and analyzed.

What other advice do you have for getting started on a new research project? What suggestions do you have for searching and organizing a literature review? Let me know — I’m always keen to get a few new ideas for scholarship and practice. Thanks!

References:

Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Hart, C. (1998). Doing a literature review: Releasing the social science research imagination. Sage.

 

#AcWri, #AcWriSummer

#AcWriSummer Week 3: Arguments and Reviewing the Literature

It’s week 3 of writing and accountability. This week and next, we’ve bumped up our #AcWriSummer accountability group meeting to Tuesdays (6/21 and 6/21). With my #acwri co-conspirators — Patrice, CatherineCaroline, & Elvira —  are continuing to work through the Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks book. This week we focused on directing our manuscripts we are working on and consider how to read/reflect on the relevant literature. Here are some highlights for what we will be discussing this week:

 Advancing Your Argument (Week 3)

This chapter details a number of reasons why articles are rejected, specifically around an article argument being too narrow, too broad, off topic, too defensive, not sufficiently original, poor structure, not significant, theoretically or methodologically flawed, and too many misspellings and/or grammatical errors. It is important to review the direction of your paper as you prepare your manuscript for journal publication. Belcher (2009) encourages readers to identify if the current manuscript has problems and to consider how to revise the following issues:

  • Focus: contextualization, audience aim, proper length, and giving pertinent examples related to the argument;
  • Topic appropriate for journal selected: subject matter, methods, scope, etc. ;
  • Scholarliness: meticulous about documentation, reference multiple sources, cite recent and relevant literature, reference debates in the field, use discipline-related expertise, provide a critical framework and evidence;
  • Defensiveness: avoid extensive quotations, excessive documenting, monotonous accounts of others work, jargon, and dogmatism;
  • Originality: read literature in your field, focus on what’s new, argue what is, claim your ideas, and develop a voice for your research;
  • Structure: Present your structure clearly, stick to your point, delete the redundant or irrelevant, link article evidence to support argument, and state findings at the beginning of the article;
  • Problems with Significance: did you articulate how this research fills a gap or adds to the topic, and did you target this manuscript for the appropriate journal;
  • Theory or Method Issues: have your work peer reviewed for feedback, detail and describe your methods, avoid imbalance in writing, and review the analysis of your data or interpretations
  • Spelling and Grammar: improve your paper for these issues, run a spelling and grammar check, ask a peer for review before submission, get help in a writing group, hire an editor, and follow the submission’s guidelines for author.

Homework: Find an Article (or a few) to Model Your Article’s Argument
Find “model” articles for your manuscript that might be:

  • part of your literature review search
  • from the target journal(s) you selected (from Week 4)
  • outside your discipline or topic area
  • the way you will structure the presentation of your article’s argument

BONUS WORK: Abstract Revisions: Abstract examples on pp. 86-87 will help you in revising of your  abstract; consider how you to present  entire topic and findings in short form.

Reviewing the Related Literature (Week 5)

This chapter shared strategies for reading literature directed towards your articles focus. I like how it suggested setting up your electronic software or platforms first. This is critical — here are a few I have used or currently use myself with a quick “about” the platform:

references_phdcomics

I really appreciated Belcher’s (2009) suggestions on refining and targeting the literature review by reading materials that specifically contribute to the central argument of your manuscript. Here are a few categories to limit how you collect relevant literature:

  • Set a time limit:  i.e. read nothing written over 10 years ago or five or two depending on your field of scholarship/topic of research
  • Language: read articles in English or designated other languages
  • Questionable or not recommended publishing outlets e.g. trade journals, non-peer reviewed, some conference proceedings not always suitable (find a journal publication)
  • Journal outside your discipline (if not interdisciplinary work)
  • Certain kinds of authors (established vs. early career?)
  • Different geographical areas (by author country of origin)
  • Different time periods (related to your genre — this might apply to humanities more)
  • Different kinds of experiments (by your methods of study/research)
  • Different kinds of participants (by research sample type, size, etc)
  • Different variables (e.g. gender, age, etc.)
  • Without your keywords in the title or abstract – focus your search for these items
  • Non-electronic formats – if you can’t access the research from home/library resources

Homework: Share How You Review Literature
-Explain methods of how you search, find, read, review, and select your literature
-Outline strategies for effective ways to approach this part of the research process

Here are a few of my suggestions and approaches for how I read & review literature:

  • Make reading/review social – find others to collaborate and add them into your Mendeley (or another software program) group to add and review publications
  • Scopus Search (ALL.THE.PUBS) and Track: I record the different search strings, track what I find, and set an alert to receive any updates — this is relevant in my field as technology, methods, and research continue to build. Here’s a screenshot of one of recent Google spreadsheets for search with a colleague: Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 1.15.32 PM
  • Search for Publications Beyond Reach: articles I don’t have access to in my own library databases I tweet #iCanHazPDF [in action #icanhazpdf], ask a friend on Twitter, or email the author
  • Take fewer notes: Tag articles in the software,  group articles into specific folders, skim abstracts to code/organize, and identify literature for easy recall and use later
  • Don’t wait to write: Create annotations about publications as you would write it
  • Create an annotated bib for focused/small literature collections: include the APA 6th edition citation + a quick line or two making note about the study, methods, findings + personal thoughts on articles/methods
  • Google Scholar search the “Cited by ###” section of the site: this is to identify other relevant paper on topic or learn more about this research thread, i.e. a discovery search for missing literature
  •  Use Backward & forward referencing search method: for collecting and reviewing publications to be inclusive of empirical literature
  • Concept mapping the Literature: Check out the great post from Pat Thomson on “spaces between the literature” for reviewing research; a.k.a. bushwhacking
  • Key Searching Suggestions from Doing a Literature Review (Hart, 1998) was blogged about in my Book Review post.

Here’s our continued #AcWriSummer 2016 Plan schedule for the remaining 5 weeks:

  • 27th June WEEK 4: Chapter 6:  Strengthen structure =>Article outline (Meeting Tuesday, June 28th)
  • 4th July WEEK 5: Chapter 7 & 8:Presenting evidence & Opening/Concluding =>Draft article (Meeting Friday, July 8th)
  • 11th July WEEK 6: Chapter 9 & 10: Give/get/use feedback & Edit sentences => Give feedback on manuscripts (Meeting Friday, July 15th)
  • 18th July WEEK 7: Chap 11 & 12 (Wrapping up & Sending article!) => Final article (Meeting Friday, July 22nd)
  • 25th July WEEK 8: X & Other (Meeting Friday, July 29th)

If you’re following along or want to join, we’ll be meeting here from 9-10 am CT June 21st:

References:

Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Hart, C. (1998). Doing a literature review: Releasing the social science research imagination. Sage.

#AcWri, #phdchat

Reasons to #AcWri and Writing Considerations

For tonight’s class (yay for Fridays!) I will be sharing the basic concepts from Rocco and Hatcher’s (2011) publication – The Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publication – as I outline chapter 1. This book was part of my #summerreading list. I picked it up to read advance for ATTD 6480: Research Methods class, and consider how to hone my own writing and publishing practice.

Much of this book offers basic ideas and structure for suggested scholarly writing practices. Stay tuned, as I am sure that I will share a few other nuggets of #AcWri tips from time to
time.

Here are some basic writing tips from Chapter 1:

  • Make projects from opportunities
  • Meet deadlines – yours and others
  • Keep your commitments
  • Organize & prioritize your projects => To Do lists & Tracking of Your Work
  • Write down ideas – ALWAYS
  • Outline your writing projects in progress
  • Take notes when you read/research
  • Identify at least ONE journal to submit to
  • Review journal articles where you want to submit
  • Learn the style & preferred manuscript structure
  • Rejection = helpful review comments & suggestions

 

Reference:

Rocco, T.S. & Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Wiley/Jossey-Bass.