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Literature Survey - Part Two

  1. Literature Review - Overview
  2. Part One - 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

5. Explain data-gathering techniques and instruments. Each research design includes ways of collecting information, such as, analyzing the contents of documents, conducting an opinion survey, observing people’s behavior, administering tests, or carrying out an experiment. Journal articles or single chapters of an edited book, because they are restricted in length, may mention the datacollecting methods and instruments but not describe them in detail. You will find this practice satisfactory if the instrument that a writer mentions (such as a test or questionnaire) is a standardized, published document whose specific nature you can discover by obtaining a copy and reading its instruction manual. But authors’ tests, questionnaires, or interview protocols are often ones they created on their own and may not be reproduced in the account of their research. In these cases, if it is important that you learn the specific nature of a data-gathering technique, you may need to hunt for the study’s original, detailed description (perhaps in a book or dissertation) or else write directly to the author to request a copy of the account.

6. Provide typologies and taxonomies for classifying data. A quantity of collected information - such as historical accounts, survey responses, and test scores - is typically an incomprehensible mess until it’s been classified and summarized. The professional literature contains alternative ways this can be done. Taking notes about different approaches, along with each one’s advantages and limitations, prepares you for writing the portion of your thesis or dissertation in which you (a) discuss alternative classification schemes, (b) tell which scheme you adopted, and (c) defend the suitability of that scheme by comparing its features with the strengths and weaknesses of other options.

7. Suggest statistical and graphic treatments. Numbers, tables, diagrams, and pictures are among the devices useful for classifying and summarizing data. Therefore, as you peruse the literature, you may benefit from contemplating the kinds of data you intend to collect and from taking notes about authors’ statistical techniques, kinds of tables, and graphic displays that you might wish to include in your own study.

8. Illustrate ways of interpreting research results. The word interpreting in the present context refers to explaining to readers what your classified information means. This is the "so what"" phase of research. The professional literature can help prepare you for the interpretation task by illustrating the diverse conclusions authors have drawn from their data. It’s useful for you to note which modes of interpretation in the literature you find most convincing, and why. Conversely, you can also determine which interpretations you consider weak, and why. This exercise can aid you in establishing criteria to guide the conclusions you draw from your own data.

9. Show ways of presenting the completed research project. Throughout the literature, the quality of presentations is remarkably varied. Some authors write well, some moderately well, and others very badly, indeed. The term bad writing as used here refers to research reports that are difficult to understand by the audience for which they are intended. Flaws of presentation can be of various kinds - (a) poor organization, so readers are amazed at what comes next in the report, (b) key words not defined precisely, (c) esoteric terms used when simpler, familiar terms would suffice, (d) convoluted sentences, (e) few, if any, life-like examples to clarify abstract concepts, and more. As you read authors’ accounts, you may wish to note which features of their presentation contribute to ease of understanding and which serve as barriers to meaning. This can alert you to ways you can enhance the quality of your own writing.

10. Suggest outlets for publishing the completed product. You will reach a broader audience with your project if the results can be disseminated in some form other than that of an unpublished thesis or dissertation. That form may be an abstract, a succinct journal article, a microfiche or microfilm version of the entire work, a chapter in someone else’s book, or an entire book itself. During your review of the literature, you may locate potential outlets for the type of research your project involves. Recording the addresses of those outlets and noting the form that each type assumes can prepare you for contacting sources of publication once your project is finished.

In summary, the professional literature has many potential functions for promoting the quality and speed of your work. Recognizing these functions at the outset of your project, then taking proper notes during the search, helps ensure that you invest your time economically.

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