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Literature Review - Literature Survey

  1. Literature Review - Overview
  2. Literature Survey
  3. Literature Survey - Part Two
  4. Efficient Ways Of Searching The Literature
  5. Where to Hunt
  6. Other Useful Info
  7. Citations And Notes
  8. Errors Of Judgment
  9. Planning Checklist

A survey of the literature can:

1. Suggest ideas for research problems. Well before the time you actually start work on your project, you can be on the lookout for potential research topics for it. While reading a textbook, listening to a lecture, or browsing through a journal, your intuitive reaction to items may point out some potential topics. Such reactions can be recognized in your spontaneous response to what you encounter: "That may not be quite true in all cases" or "Surely that’s an oversimplification of a complex situation" or "Now that’s an idea worth following detail" or "You can’t draw such a broad conclusion from such a limited sampling of people" or "There must be a better way to test that theory." On these occasions, you may find it worth doing to jot down your reaction and thoughts and suggest, even in a vague way, the way of study that could derive from your response. Adopting this habit enables you to compile a list of research possibilities from which you can select your thesis or dissertation problem.

2. Identify strengths and weaknesses of others’ theories and empirical studies. Authors of books, articles, and book reviews in your discipline frequently offer assessments of work in that field. Those analyses can prove useful and suitable for your own work by alerting you to weaknesses to avoid and suggesting good ideas to incorporate in your own study. By pausing in your reading to note these features and to identify the publication in which they appear (author, year, title, volume, number, publisher, page number), you gradually accumulate references that may prove useful for your project.
Identify theories that can be applied or tested. The word theory, as we use it throughout this book, is a proposal about (a) what variables are important for understanding some phenomenon and (b) how those variables interact to make the phenomenon turn out as it does. Thus, a political theory may be designed to explain why people vote the way they do in elections. A sociological theory may show how and why people may rise or fall on a socialstatus scale within a family from one generation to the next. An economic theory may explain stock market cycles of advance and decline. An anthropological theory may offer reasons for the appearance of particular religious practices within representative cultures. A psychological theory may identify factors affecting compulsive behavior. An educational theory may propose how teachers’ personality characteristics interact with pupils’ characteristics to affect pupils’ academic performance.

Thus, in the professional literature, you may find theories which your thesis or dissertation will test empirically, extend, revise, or replace. Through your reading, as ideas about theories come to mind, you may find it worthwhile to record your thoughts and note the passage or chapter that stimulated those thoughts, along with the bibliographic location of the passage (author, year, title, volume, number, publisher, page number).

Suggest methodological approaches. The word methodology is used here to mean the stage you will pass to answer your research question, including the types of information you gather, how you gather it, and how you classify and interpret the results and findings. The professional literature is a valuable source of methodological possibilities, including the advantages and limitations of different approaches. Such information can not only guide your choice of a research design but also can assist you in devising a defense of that choice. Therefore, as you browse through the literature, you can profitably take notes about (a) the components of a given method, (b) the kinds of research problems for which that method has been used, and (c) the method’s strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages.

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