Sometimes there are little gems that are impossible to overlook and not include on the blog. This time it’s Dr Liz Tynan’s slides from James Cook University in Queensland, Australia about writing a journal for publication during or after a PhD warning that for most researchers “publish or perish” is a stark reality. But it helps the PhD candidate in the examination process. It also hones your skills as a writer. Practise, practise, practise your writing skills. Nougats of advice include the direct simplicity of conveying complex ideas with the ‘scientific method’ where “smooth transfer of information from researcher to audience” succeeds or “bad writing can slow down or prevent the publication of good research”. Even Charles Darwin who changed the course of evolutionary theory with the publication of Origin of Species struggled with the writing process: “a naturalist’s life would be a happy one if he only had to observe and never to write”. The author must engage not distract the reader with writing errors. I also like the presentation itself, clear, precise and uncluttered.
In this blog post I want to outline the process of conducting a literature review on a chosen topic, such as ‘buyer behaviour and ethical purchase intentions’. My main advice whilst carrying out this type of research is to be open-minded and explore ideas as though it’s the first time you have come across this topic.
Literature searching and the art of reviewing literature
- Allow yourself time to browse the library catalogue (library.lincoln.ac.uk > resources > Library catalogue…) http://catalogue.library.lincoln.ac.uk/ipac20/ipac.jsp?profile=
- Search for relevant material on your chosen topic.
- Search for ‘BA marketing’ for instance as this will bring up undergraduate dissertations. (282 titles matched)
- Search Find it at Lincoln on the Library webpage (on Find it at Lincoln you can ‘add to folder’ which makes it easier to collate your research, and send it via email then save on your student drive, memory stick, et al).
- Search the Advertising and Marketing Library subject guide: http://guides.library.lincoln.ac.uk/advertisingandmarketing for relevant databases like Warc.com and ABI Inform using keywords like ‘buyer behaviour and ethical purchase intentions’ (ABI Inform has some 7, 154 results).
- Identify key articles, conference papers, quality newspapers (check out the Lexis Library database), and interesting chapters relevant to your topic.
- I might amend my searches by adding ‘motivation’ or ‘actual’ to refine my research .
- Explore some ideas and focus your reading, BEFORE writing any draft (but be adaptable, open to change as your literature review may veer from its original course).
- Critically evaluate what you read; don’t take things at face value, look deeper. It is healthy to question everything but remember to be objective to form a balanced opinion.
- Look for ‘chains’ (they will make the structure easier) when you design the essay plan. How does one piece of research or set of ideas influence the next? Use a mind map or flow chart if necessary.
- Write brief notes about the development of the research over time
- Note the key 5-10 pieces of research that most influenced the subject. Briefly chart how each piece of research influenced others in the chain.
- Identify how your research will follow on from previous research. Will it add to knowledge about the topic or methods? Add this to your introduction.
(indebted to Stella Cottrell’s ever popular Study Skills Handbook, 2008). Making study easier. Incidentally, Stella’s now PVC for Learning, Teaching and Student Engagement at the University of East London.
For a more detailed overview of a literature review I found it a pleasure to read the University of Leicester’s Student Learning Development webpage on Doing a Literature Review. http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/writing-resources/literature-review which contains invaluable advice on structure, editing, remaining focused, amongst other gems. Reviewing literature can be overwhelming and it is a skill in knowing where the boundaries lay (i.e. what to leave in, what to leave out) and is a cause of many a student headache so it’s worth to remember the valuable advice from Rudestam and Newton (1992:49) when they said to ‘build an argument, not a library’.
Cottell, S. (2008). Study Skills Handbook. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rudestam K. & Newton R. (1992). Surviving your dissertation. London:Sage.