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  • Were going to talk about a lot of the things that you probably have already read about

  • a lit review in terms of what it does, what it is, what the purpose is and so forth. And

  • that’s kind of general information. But then I have a strategy that I think will be

  • pretty practical I hope and show you well yeah I know what it is and I know what I’m

  • supposed to do, but how do I do it?

  • And then how when I get all of these sources how to I organize them? And then how do I

  • actually write the darn thing? Because I think that where a lot of the information is missing.

  • Your professors can just say do this, do this, do this, in very general terms, but I hopefully

  • will get down into the dirt of it, get our hands dirty, and actually say well how do

  • I, what verbs do I use? How do I put these two sources together? Okay? I’m going to

  • tell you that I really didn’t make up any of this on my own; I’d love to take full

  • credit for it but actually what I did was I did two things. There is a wonderful book

  • called They Say, I Say: the Moves of Matter in Academic Writing, and it talks about how

  • to use source material in your writing. It’s actually directed at undergraduates, but I

  • think it’s so helpful and so practical that it’s a book, it’s like about that thin,

  • it’s not big, and it’s not little print or anything like, but it even gives you a

  • list of verbs that may be helpful in terms of saying okay scholar x says, and were

  • going to go through some of these in the presentation as well.

  • Then I found that a lot of times the examples that they give in this book are not helpful

  • to graduate students because theyre not in-depth enough, and also I had a hard time

  • finding examples as well, so I found a literature review that’s in economics, which is not

  • my field. Which I found it would be really better to pick a lit review that wasn’t

  • in my field at all and show you how it could work in any field. Okay? So what I did was

  • I took almost all the examples from this article, “Sociologic Economic Conditions of Poverty

  • Crime.” So those, what I’ve done is taken this stuff and this stuff and just put it

  • together. Okay?

  • Well let’s just cover the basics just to get started with the lit review. Well, and

  • that’s a good question because you may be doing a couple of different lit reviews. There

  • are actually two kinds of lit reviews, but basically it’s a comprehensive examination

  • of all of the research and all of the literature done on a particular topic; that’s obvious,

  • you guys probably already know that. Okay? But there are two categories of literature

  • reviews, and I want to break it down because I’m really going to focus more on one category

  • over the other. There are two categories; one is a literature review that contextualizes

  • a research study, and for probably 90% of you, and I’m spit-balling this statistic

  • here, but for about 90% of you, that’s what youre doing. Youre doing a study; youre

  • doing a research study, okay, in your dissertation your thesis, whatever. Okay? Or your professor

  • is doing a study, you know, empirical research or whatever. You are then doing the literature

  • review that justifies the study, correct? Okay? If it’s a journal article, and youre

  • doing the research, if it’s a dissertation, if it’s a thesis, that’s what youre

  • doing. There is one other kind of literature review though, and I think it’s just important

  • to like just touch on it and that is a literature review that is a study in and of itself. Okay?

  • You can actually publish a journal article that is in and of itself a literature review.

  • Alright? So for example if there is a topic that is very mature, and there is a lot of

  • literature written on it, and it would advance knowledge in the field to do a literature

  • review on it that would be helpful. There’s also a literature review where it’s a new

  • or emerging topic and it would be helpful to gather all of the literature on this new

  • or emerging topic; that’s suitable as well. The other part that is like helpful too, I’ve

  • seen some literature reviews that combine, if there’s a topic that’s interdisciplinary

  • and nobody has looked at the interdisciplinary part of it, they bring in multiple disciplines

  • on the literature review and advance the knowledge that way. That second one is not really what

  • were going to talk about today, but the concepts will apply. But most of you are guys

  • are in the boat where you have to write a lit review for your dissertation or thesis

  • or a journal article, okay? All right let’s move on to the next step. What’s the reason?

  • Why would you write a literature review? Well my professor told me it was part of my dissertation;

  • it’s a chapter in my dissertation. Well what is it for? One, it establishes what is

  • already known about a particular topic, and two what methods have been used to research

  • that topic. Okay? And then also, when youre doing your research, if you don’t do a literature

  • review first, how do you know youre not duplicating what somebody else has already

  • done? That’s bad because then you go to your chair and you go, ‘Here it is, this

  • is the last six months of my life’s work,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, but Smith did that three

  • years ago. Smith and Wesson did a study that’s very similar to yours, and you know, and start

  • over, right? So you don’t want to get in that bind, you want to do your literature

  • review. It’s a matter of front end loading versus back end loading your work; you want

  • to front to end load your work; you don’ t want to reproduce what somebody else has

  • done, unless you are reproducing a study that somebody else has done. A lot of times you

  • use the same and methodology and you get different results. In the sciences I think this is done,

  • but you still don’t want exactly the same thing to happen because then youre just

  • replicating, okay? It also exposes gaps in literature and helps you position your research.

  • In your dissertation or your thesis youre supposed to come up with something new, right?

  • Okay? Well how do you know what’s new? How do you know what’s new? One of the last

  • slides I’m going to show you is then how to find the gaps in the research because I

  • think that’s a little difficult. I’ve done several literature reviews, and these

  • are the questions I ask myself. And these are the questions that people ask me. I think

  • the big question is how much literature do I need to look at? I could spend probably

  • the next five years of my life looking at the literature in this field and that’s

  • depressing, you know? So how much, what related ideas do I need to explore, subtopics or overarching

  • ideas? A lot of times youre looking at a topic, but that topic has subtopics, correct?

  • Or that subtopic has overarching topics. How do I know, okay, how do I know that I need

  • to go to related ideas? Well you just need to start swimming in the literature and figure

  • it out. Let me give you an example from my latest lit review. So I’m looking at plagiarism,

  • okay, you know, just the concept of plagiarism, but what I really started with was academic

  • dishonesty. And I realized that that was too big a topic, and I got myself in the literature,

  • and I got myself in a real tangle because there was so much literature on it and I go,

  • How am I going to right about everything? I can’t.’ Okay, is there a bigger topic

  • that I need to look at, or is there a subtopic that I need to look at? And one of the things

  • we were talking about before this started was the idea that youre trying to decide

  • on your dissertation topic, and then you need to do your literature review; you may swap

  • that; you may go ahead and start the literature review, and then expose a gap in the literature

  • and find your dissertation topic. This is what happened to me and it was really helpful.

  • Is there certain literature that provides a better couch for your study than others?

  • And that’s how you can also discriminate whether youre going to use a piece of literature

  • in your literature review. And a related question that may be a duplicate question, but more

  • practical for you is, why use a particular instrument for my study, or why use a particular

  • methodology for my study? Okay? In the hard sciences if youre looking at laminitis,

  • which is really a fascinating to me. If youre looking at laminitis, scientists have been

  • looking at this for a long time. Have they been looking in a different way at the problem

  • then youre looking at it. He’s using a new method or approach so why use a different

  • method? Because the other methods haven’t worked. See what I’m saying? You only know

  • that when you look at the literature though. What’s been done before to tackle my particular

  • research topic or problem? And the next step is finding the literature, that would be good,

  • you know. Some of you have found too much literature, and well deal with that in

  • a few slides. But finding literature, how do you know you can find. One of the things

  • that I think, and I’m going to show you the details for everyone of these suggestion,

  • but one of the things I think is sorely underutilized is your subject specialist reference librarian.

  • When I talked to the reference librarian and the subject librarians they go, ‘We just

  • want people to come see us, we love to work with people!’ So theyre like waiting

  • for you, their arms outstretched; let me help you. Okay so take advantage of that, it’s

  • free. The other thing that I think is helpful is how do you find then also then good sources?

  • I swim through those databases, the library databases, and I’m completely overwhelmed.

  • How many of you guys find that to be true? I look in there and I do like a search, a

  • topical search; and I get 18,000 hits, and I go through and I go well how do I even know

  • that this is a good source? How do I even know that this is something that will be helpful

  • to me because one of the things in your literature review is you the question asks how much literature

  • do I need to look at?

  • Youre not going to be able to look at all of the literature if you have a big topic,

  • correct? So how do you know who are the scholars that you really need to cite? And really you

  • want the big players; you don’t need to mess with the little guys; you want the big

  • scholars, the big players in your field, correct? I don’t’ know about you guys but when

  • I first research a topic who the big players are, do you? I don’t know who the big players

  • are. Ah, but Google does. If you go to scholar.google.com it is not comprehensive. Your databases, your

  • library databases are a lot more comprehensive than this, but as a starting point, these

  • articles come up, these books come up. And right here it says cited by and there’s

  • a number; this says citied by 45, so that’s 45 other scholarly sources cited that source.

  • So if your overwhelmed with the amount of literature youre looking at, you only want

  • to find the big players in the field right? So if it says cited by two, which that would

  • be my journal article, you may not want to use it. But if it says by cited by 60, cited

  • by 200, right? Then you goahhhh,” maybe this person is somebody that people are talking

  • to and talking about. And all your doing is your tapping in to the conversation and your

  • trying to find a place for you to join the conversation, youre trying to find a little

  • hole for you to fit into. Alright? This is a real quick and dirty way of finding the

  • sources very quickly. Once your very familiar with the big name players in your field, the

  • people that are talking the most, the most respected, the most controversial, whatever,

  • whatever your actually looking for, then go back to the library datatbase, then you can

  • do your searches, your searches then can be much more refined because maybe you just want

  • to find all the articles from Donald Mckay because he’s the biggest player in academic

  • dishonesty research that you can find. Then your going to find related articles to that

  • article, see how it all kinds of webs together? You can find dissertations written on your

  • topic from your department from Texas A&M just like that. Okay. Why is this helpful?

  • I wanted to find out, I wanted to read dissertations supervised by my chair and other members of

  • my committee. Now that’s a little bit outside of the literature review but you understand

  • why I might want to do that? I want to know what theyre going to be looking for, what

  • theyve signed off on, that kind of thing. I also want to know what a dissertation in

  • my department looks like, okay? Now, there are all kinds of methodologies you may be

  • using you may find you may go ahead and look for a dissertation or a thesis with even the

  • methodology and so forth, there’s a lot of things. But at the very minimum, to bring

  • it back to the topic were talking about today you could look at a dissertation from youre

  • department and your field and look at the literature review and see what It looks like.

  • Particularly those where your chair or your committee members have supervised those other

  • students. See what it looks like, see what your committee members are going to expect

  • because lets be honest you guys you know your committee members sign the paperwork, correct?

  • Right? They do. And, and, and you want to be in line with there expectations okay?

  • Alright. So what you do here is you just go to the library, just the home page you pick

  • up the database one, it says search for databases, and it says proquest dissertation so you can

  • look for school: Texas A&M University. You can look for the terms in the abstract or

  • you can actually look for the terms used in the document text, so your topic end, did

  • anybody at Texas A&M in my department or whatever at Texas A&M, write a dissertation with this

  • topic used in the text? I think that this is astronomically helpful and a lot of people

  • don’t know about it. And it’s a way to do your homework before you do your homework.

  • Aright where are we now? We know we have to do a lit review, we have gone to the library

  • databases, looked at the subject librarians. We actually have stacks and stacks and stacks

  • of printed pdf files in our house in our car in the back seat. How do you wade through

  • all of that stuff especially if you have a lot of it? Okay so the deal is you want to

  • find out what scholars are saying about your topic, and we already know how to find the

  • good ones, the big players, Google Scholar. What are the ongoing debates or conversations

  • on your topic? Okay? Is anybody talking about your topic at all? Okay and if they aren’t

  • why? And that’s something to think about in terms of making choices, and if people

  • are talking, whose talking and what are they talking about? This also helps you organize

  • your information you have a copious amount of information when youre doing your literature

  • review. You have lots of information and Brandy and I were talking about this earlier, that

  • we gathered all the information then we took a break from the literature review and when

  • we went back we had no idea where to start again because we had forgotten everything

  • that was in every article. We didn’t really forget, but we kind of did because you almost

  • have to be concentrating on that topic intently. You have to be thinking about it and thinking

  • about it and you go okay what does so and so say and what does so and so say and what

  • does so and so say okay? So what are the ongoing debates within your topic and it may be if

  • your in the hard sciences it may be about methodology, why does this methodology work

  • better than this methodology? Well this study was done but it didn’t do any good, and

  • if your in education there’s a lot of theories in education, education, they love theories

  • well the theory is this, well this theory may not be adequate, does this theory work?

  • Theory, theory, theory, right?

  • What ideas do you agree with? ‘Oh my gosh this guy just has all the answers, you know?

  • This is perfect, whatever I do, he gets it, or she gets it and I’m going to follow that.’

  • And hopefully once you do a lot of reading you gooh no, no no no, that would never

  • work; I can see why they haven’t solved the problem because theyre not looking

  • at it in the right waycorrect? And then, this is probably the most important question

  • if youre looking to the literature: what hasn’t been said about your topic? Because

  • really what youre trying to do is find your little niche. What are you going to right

  • about? What are you going to study? You don’t want to say something that’s just been replicated.

  • Organizing the writing of your literature review is probably the most difficult thing

  • that your going to tackle, I think, you know? ‘I’ve got all these articles and I’ve

  • read them all and I don’t know where to start? I have a couple of suggestions. You

  • probably have good sense of where the conversation is you know youve done all this work, youve

  • done all the reading, you probably have a sense that this scholar doesn’t agree with

  • this scholar and this researcher used this methodology but didn’t accomplish what you

  • think could be accomplished with this methodology. Or maybe its been looked at in this way but

  • not in this way and you think that this would really solve the problem because somebody

  • else looked at the problem this way. I was helping a student with her thesis, and she

  • is doing a study of what’s calledbull switchingin a waterbuck herd. Basically

  • they bring in a male for breeding season. They only want one breeding season to help

  • with the health of the water bucks and the survival of the calves, so what they do though

  • to keep the herd in tact is they take the bull, bring him in to this breeding season,

  • then remove the bull and bring in a vasectomized male for these waterbucks, okay? Well she

  • had to do two things: she had to research bull switching in other species because it

  • had never been done in the waterbuck species, and she was observing the animals in a semi-natural

  • environment as opposed to the wild, as opposed to a zoo. She was looking at it a Fossil Rim

  • Park, which is a semi-natural environment where they don’t want you to interfere with

  • the natural wildlife, but they do some interference, right? She found literature on, you know,

  • bull switching in waterbucks, she found no literature in bull switching in semi-natural

  • environments, she found no literatureyou know what I’m mean? This is really great

  • research that’s she’s doing, but doing the literature review was very very difficult

  • because what she had to do was pull from other areas and say okay, ‘what work has been