Challenges confronting beginning researchers in conducting literature reviews

Conducting literature review is a complicated, sometimes confusing and laborious process that beginning educational researchers, especially graduate students, often find challenging. However, in the past these challenges were hardly considered, but in more recent times they have been increasingly considered by various faculties and graduate schools due to the expanding needs from growing enrolments. To further develop and strengthen the responses to these identified needs, this article reviews literature concerning challenges faced by beginning educational researchers in conducting literature review, aiming to help unpack this complicated phenomenon by constructing a coherent story. Based on our review, we propose a framework to conceptualize four types of challenges. We term them LMCO (linguistic, methodological, conceptual, and ontological) challenges. Discussions centers on the four identified challenges, recommendations for future studies and implications to graduate preparatory programs.
Chen, D. T. V., Wang, Y. M., & Lee, W. C. (2015). Challenges confronting beginning researchers in conducting literature reviews. Studies in Continuing Education, 1-14.
Source: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0158037X.2015.1030335
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What is secondary data and where is located?

Secondary data is usually defined in opposition to primary data. The latter is directly obtained from first-hand sources by mean of questionnaire, observation, focus group or in-depth interviews, while the former refers to data collected by someone other than the user. In other words, data that has already been collected for some other purpose. Yet, such data may be very useful for your own research purpose.

A review of the literature accounts for many varieties of classification for secondary data (Bryman 1989, Dale et al. 1988; Robson, 202). Suffice it to mention Kervin classification (1992) who distinguish between raw data and compiled data. Regarding the former one, there has been little if any processing, while the latter one has received some form of selection or summarizing. Among the first type of secondary data it is worth mentioning those coming from organizations´ databases, organizations´ websites or newspaper, among other. Second type, compiled data, refers to for instance, government publications, books, journals or industry statistic and reports, among others.

There would be a third type of secondary data that is in between both raw and compiled, they were collected via survey strategy. For instance, census of population, continuous and regular surveys such as government family spending, labor market trends, employee attitude surveys, etc.; and last but not least, ad hoc surveys, i.e. those non-regular basis survey made by some organization.

Where is secondary data located? Your public or university library is still a great place to find relevant data for any project, especially with regard to books or encyclopedias. But the truth is that in the so called Internet society, a lot of worthy material is usually available via Internet or, at least, the references to such material. The use of key words may sometimes be enough to come across relevant secondary data via the most common search engine. However, the breadth of information on the net may be unmanageable or, what is worse, you may waste a lot of time on the always difficult task of discriminating between what is a bogus or a true research

In this case it is highly recommendable to do customized searches via specific sources. Below are three kinds of sources that may help you on that venture:

1. Public statistical providers. Identify the main provider of statistical information, which is usually dependent on the government. Bureau of the Census of US or Central Statistical Office in the case of Poland. Find here a list of National Statistical Offices web-sites. The you have other international statistic offices such as Eurostat, where you will find social and economic indicators from all over the European Union members; as well as worldwide organizations such as OECD.Stat which includes data and metadata for OECD countries and selected non-member economies; or United Nations Statistic.

2. Specialized search engines. To use these you need to define your general subject area prior to your search. For instance, such database as Econlit count with their own search engine that focus only on economics and management publications, or The Financial Times Historical Archive in case of financial studies. Although the access to some of them may be for a fee, note that your own institution or University could perfectly be a subscriber. It is also worth mentioning Google Scholar. Its use is also becoming quite common within academia. It is not specialized in any particular subject, but discriminate efficiently among academics and non-academics publications. Finally, social networks are also shifting the way secondary data and review of literature is understood. Academia.edu is probably one of the most known and worldwide used academic networks. Counting with its own search engine, you can find not only relevant publications but also other scholars and professionals working on your topic.

3. Organizations related to your research topic. Finally, note that ample and relevant information may be obtained from organizations related to your research topic. Imaging your research focuses intellectual property issues. Visiting World Intellectual Property Organization is a must for you. The same would happen with the World Health Organization if you address health related issues. Equally when the focus is on a specific industry. Every industry normally counts with its own national and/or international organization. Euromines for minig, World Tourism Organization for the touristic industry. Should you happen to be interested on working rights, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) website and, concretly, its global index report is an interesting source for you. Note that your topic, especially when is very specific, may not have any organization related. It may be due to two main reasons that should make you think over. First, your topic is not enough relevant and then you should consider another one. Second, your topic refers to a very new phenomenon and the interest lays on its emerging nature (Exploratory approach would be the most convenient for you)

Reference list

Bryman, A. (2004). Research methods and organization studies (Vol. 20). Routledge.

Dale, A., Arber, S., & Procter, M. (1988). Doing secondary analysis (pp. 15-18). London: Unwin Hyman.

Kervin, J. B. (1992). Methods for business research. HarperCollinsPublishers.

Robson, C. (2002). Real world research: A resource for social scientists and practitioner-researchers (Vol. 2). Oxford: Blackwell.

Saunders, Mark NK, et al. Research Methods For Business Students, 5/e. Pearson Education India, 2011.

Qualitative evaluation of research proposals. Part 1

Apart from a more quantitative evaluation of the research proposals in the previous post What is the most common weakness in formulating a research proposal in this and in the next post you will find a more qualitative examination divided into the next points:

1. Lack of connection with theory.

2. Writing style

3. Person used

4. Clarity, structure and content of the research proposal background.

5. Interconnection between different parts of the proposal (background, research question and objectives)

This post will focus the first point, lack of connection with theory.

As you can appreciate in the quantitative analysis, being linked to theory is likely the most common weakness. But what does being linked to theory mean? It means that your research will not be “alone in the Universe”, that your research will be part of other researchers´ work that has contributed to a major understanding of the reality being studied. In other words, and using the metaphor of a puzzle, you must be able to find a gap to be cover by your “puzzle part”, i.e. by your research.

Unless you are entering an undiscovered cave? (which I do not think is your case taking into account your topic research) #criticallyreviewofliterature will provide you with previous works on your topic. To be more concrete, at this initial stage, you do not even need a very deep review. What you actually need is a so called “preliminary review”. In other words, you must perform a superficial search in some directory, like Google scholar, under the appropriate “keywords”. Actually, among the 11 steps required to do a successfull review of literature, finding keywords is likely the most important.

Have you already identified your keywords?

Critically review of literature in 11 steps

1. Select a language of publication

2. Select a geographical areFinda(e.g. China, Spain, Italy, Europe…)

3. Publication period (e.g. 2008-2012)

4. Choose literature type (e.g. academic journals)

5. Find keywords (e.g. “labor satisfaction”)

6. Search relevant information (e.g. in Google scholar)

7. Read a realistic number of documents (e.g. 10)

8. Summarize them in your own words

9. Relate each other

10 Criticize them

11. Suggest a new research

What is a review of literature?

A critically review of literature (CRL) is a process to account for the most relevant findings as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic.

It is important to distinguish between a CRL and a preliminary review of literature (PRL). As mentioned in previous posts, PRL just aims to help the researcher to find a gap of knowledge that hasn´t been yet cover by other works, as well as, to define the research objectives and question to address such gap. In two words, PRL aims to account for the state of the art of a specific field like, for instance, online marketing. On the other hand, a CRL goes further and describing and relating the most important finding of a particular topic in terms of theory but also methodEnglish:ology.

Here we divide a review of literature in THREE different stages:

  1. Selecting the most relevant readings on your topic
  2. Summarize the most relevant ideas, themes and theories
  3. Relate each other.

It is important to emphasize its critical character as long as the review should evaluate the merits and faults of the key literature within your area. Such critic might be done answering the below FOUR questions:

  1. Do you find inconsistent and/or unexamined the ideas generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in your field (conventional wisdom)? (Critique of tradition)
  2. Do you find improvable or inconsistent the dominant view portrayed in the literature you are reading? (critique of authority)
  3. Has the literature a effective use of language? (Critique of rhetoric)
  4. Is the information value free? (Critique of objectivity)

If are a non experienced researcher you must assume that a highly critical review of literature is just reachable for experienced researchers. For this reason, unless the literature review has clear faults, you are probably going to skip this step and just summarize and relate the most relevant ideas and at most, point out the lack of empirical data in, for instance, the country or organization you are researching on.

E.g.: Imaging you are reading literature on labor satisfaction (a sub-branch within Human Resources branch). Specifically, your review aims to identify the factors of labor satisfaction in small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). After performing a search in Google scholar using such keyword as “labor satisfaction” and “SMEs” you read the works made by two important authors, Locke and Lawler. The former considers that labor satisfaction mainly depends on personal aspects while the latter sustains that it depends on organizational ones and both have obtained empirical evidence after several research project in Europe. You, as undergraduate, are unlikely to be able to put into consideration the ideas sustained by such prestigious authors but you could, of course, contribute to the field of labor satisfaction. How? Applying those theories in your country or a specific organization. Your critic could well be, “lack of empirical data from China” or “none of these authors have conducted a research in among professor in University of Gdansk. So your research objective will consist of checking which of the two theories are right for your organization or country. Just picture for a moment how would be the title of your research: Does labor satisfaction in China depends on personal or organizational aspects?
References

Camino, J. R. (2011). Cómo escribir y publicar una tesis doctoral ESIC Editorial.

Hart, C. (1998) Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. United Kingdom. London: Sage ISBN 0-7619-5974-2 Set book Open University Social Science Masters. Pages 230

Lewis, P., Saunders, M. N. K., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students Pearson.

Wikipedia. Conventional wisdom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conventional_wisdom

Wikipedia. Literature review. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literature_review