002 Literature Review in Research Methodology – How to Conduct a Literature Review


Hey! It’s Dr.Liu here with better LIFE
research TIPs. Today I want to talk about the two cycles of the whole review
process and some tips for reading efficiently. It is common that before you
have a well-defined research question, you may find that there are numerous
papers that seems relevant to your research. And it is difficult to define
your research question before you have done some research. Therefore, typically,
in the first stage or first cycle of the review process. The main job is to
define your research question. In order to do that, you want to get an overview
of the topic and deep understanding of all the relevant key concepts. It might be
helpful to read a specialized book on the topic or an online encyclopedia. You may
need to browse or scan hundreds of papers in your area, or simply from
your searching results. As you read more and more, you may often go back and ask yourself, are you still satisfied with the current version of your
research question. If not, you may revise it. And that is a cycle you may run
multiple times. In this cycle, you need to read a lot. So you want to read
efficiently. In order to be efficient, it is not really just a matter of reading
fast. The key is to read selectively. One strategy is always reading the
abstract first. In fact, for most papers, reading abstract is enough. After reading
the abstract, if you find the paper is relevant to your work,you may further
read the introduction and the conclusion section, to decide whether the paper need
more attention. Another strategy to read efficiently is to quickly identify the
topic sentence of the paragraphs you are reading, and skip the rest. In order to
avoid being distracted by unrelated information, it would be nice to always
keep your goals or questions in your mind while reading. For example, your
goals may be to identify the trends in the field or to look for controversies on a
certain issue that needs discussion. One shortcut is to start from
examining other people’s literature review on a related topic. Also, you want to
consider highly cited paper first. You do not want to spend too much time on poor
quality paper and ruin your taste. As you further define your research question,
you will gain a better sense of priorities. And you will be able to
identify the most relevant and most significant works. Therefore, you can
prioritize your reading. And that is what I mean by reading from thick to thin. Once
you have a well-defined research question, you will be able to do a more
focused and intensive reading. You enter the second cycle. In this cycle your main
job is to collect evidences that are available in the current literature to
answer the defined research question. In order to be able to analyze and
synthesize these evidences in your review, you want to obtain in-depth understanding on them. So you want to conduct proactive reading instead of passive reading. Passive
readers read words, proactive readers read ideas. You want to read between
lines, paying attention to not only what was said but also what was not said. For example, you may need to figure out some premises or assumptions that are
not explicitly provided by the authors. Also, in addition to reading what the author said about what their result mean, you may need to check their results by
yourself and make your own interpretation. And that is what I mean
by reading from thin to thick. In this cycle, you do not want to miss any major
works that are relevant to the defined research question. You may determine the order of the importance of these papers you found, and read prioritized paper in
depth. As you read more, it is still possible for you to go back and further
revise your research question. In this cycle, it’s very important to take notes
while reading. Writing is a way of thinking. Taking
notes can help you understand and find relationships between the ideas you’ve
got from your reading. There are various note-taking system. You may choose
whichever is comfortable for you so that you can easily rearrange your notes
later to follow a progression of logic when it’s time for you to write your review.
And when taking notes, it’s important to always keep track of the source of
information. Always put reference into your writing. Let’s take another look at
these two cycles. In the first cycle, you accumulate your knowledge for the
general problem you try to solve. And as a result you will be able to define a
specific research question. After the first cycle, you know what to read. In the
second cycle, you accumulate knowledge for the defined research question. You
collect current evidences that are available in the literature to answer
that specific question. And as a result, you will be able to identify your chance
to contribute, and therefore you’ll be able to propose your own solution to
that research question. Yu develop your own idea and argument. After the second
cycle, you know what to write. During the whole review process there are three traps to avoid. The first trap is trying to read everything, especially in the
first cycle. Nowadays so much information is easily available. It is mission
impossible and unnecessary to read them all. The ability to focus selectively is
the key for an efficient study. The second trap is reading but not writing,
especially in the second cycle. Of course, it is always a good practice to start
taking notes earlier. The key is, you do not want to wait until the last minute
to start writing. The third trap is not keeping track the source of the
information. Whenever you write down something that
may be useful for your review, you should always put reference there. It will save
you a lot of time, when it is time for you to write your review. You don’t want to
waste time to re-identify the correct reference for the information you want
to cite. Those are the three traps you definitely want to avoid. And while
reviewing and taking notes, in order to better organize your ideas. There are three tips you may want to consider. The first tip is to use a table. A table is a good way to summarize the results, especially for a large number of references. A table like these will make it easier for comparing concepts or ideas from
different studies. The concept here may also be research methods or results on
certain issue. The second tip is to sketch and visualize your ideas on one
page of paper, using circles, lines and arrows. When you have an idea, write it down and draw a circle around it. When you have another idea or a reference that support this idea. Do the same thing and then you can connect the two circles
with a line or arrow. And you can do this continuously to link all your ideas and
the evidences in references that support those ideas. This simple method will allow you to see how things tie together at a glance. It doesn’t have to be beautiful,
but it will help you to organize your review around your ideas but not around
the reference themselves. The third tip is to write your own abstract for the
important papers that you read. You may summarize which information in these
papers are important to your research. It will help you to better organize these
papers and use them effectively in your review. Thanks for watching, I’m Dr. Liu
with research tips for the underdogs. In the next video I will talk about how to
generate a good research question and the three rhetoric patterns for
developing a viable research question. Until next time, keep studying for a
better life.

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