Approaching the literature review

You probably believe that your research will be significant in contributing to knowledge in your field, but how can you support that belief? The challenge is to provide a solid justification.

 Support your topic choice by providing a review of research that has been done before. This becomes your ‘literature review’. Research builds on what has been done before, so past research reported in academic literature is what you need to source.

 There is plenty of advice on how to use and cite literature. Databases are very helpful in getting you started and the AUT library has excellent search engines for accessing literature.

 The literature review is one piece of the jigsaw that will make up your thesis and provides the context for your work. It informs the reader of the gap or space for your research topic and leads the way into what you have discovered.

 Structuring your literature review can seem daunting, so here are some useful tips to guide you with structuring your review:

  1. Find models of reviews to help you
  2. Problem formulation – which topic is under consideration and what are the constituent issues?
  3. Literature search
  4. Evaluation of findings
  5. Analysis and interpretation of literature

If you like examining a process through diagrams, try this link.

Author: Dr Jennie Billot

Doing your research and keeping on track

The challenge of clearly defining the research topic and planning the study is done and dusted. The approvals to go ahead are on the desk and now the research truly begins. Getting started on the research can seem a daunting task, especially when there are likely to be unknown hurdles,  but if the project is well scoped and designed then it should go to plan…shouldn’t it? Nevertheless, it is an exciting prospect and there are plenty of places to access advice and support.

Here are some basic hints to keep you on track:

  1. At all times keep the research question in front of you. It will guide you in the right direction and   remind you that you need to eventually answer it.
  2. Identify the skills you need to support your researching. What could you do to improve the way you work? Take up the offers of workshops and events that help you develop listening and thinking skills, as well as your ability to critique the theories that you read.
  3. Plan schedules of work so that you manage your time well. You DO need breaks but they shouldn’t be greater than the research!
  4. Time management doesn’t mean being inflexible, it means that you work more effectively.
  5. Ask for help when you need it, either from your supervisor or through the university support network.
  6. Keep focused!

Author: Dr Jennie Billot


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