Date of publication: 2017-09-05 08:04
These are questions that you will already probably be asking yourself. You will also need to be ready to answer them in a viva if you will be having one.
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The key is in the systematic approach, which, simply put, predefines what you are looking for. Although you are looking for all previous research, there need to be enough commonalities among the studies to make comparisons that will aid in a conclusion. You will be looking for studies that address the same research question, have similar samples and methods for sample selection, look at the same intervention, exposition, experiment, or technique, and use similar research methods.
Use a gold standard
If you have a set of key articles on your topic, use them to test your search. First, check whether they are indexed in the database, then check whether they come up in your search. If they are not included in the search, try to find out why and revise your strategy. Missed search terms? Too narrow limitations?
Language, publication year, demography and methodology filters
If your research question allows limitations, these may be applied in the literature search as well. Most databases allow limitations by year, language, demography, research design, etc. Consider the use of these.
5. Repeat the process until reaching conceptual saturation.
Depending on how in-depth I want to go, I write rhetorical precis or synthetic summaries of each article, and then dump them into my Conceptual Synthesis Excel Dump for that specific topic. I may also want to create an annotated bibliography. But sometimes I am so busy that I simply go from the Conceptual Synthesis Excel Dump to writing the literature review.
Are you developing a classic grounded theory? Do you have data that could be resorted and further developed into a new grounded theory? Are you working on a formal theory, or are you reflecting on a methodological issue? We invite you to submit your paper for consideration for the next issue of Grounded Theory Review, which will be published in December 7567.
Your research is not done in isolation from previous research. At PhD level your inclusion of existing literature will show how well you know your field of research, as well as demonstrate that your research will fill gaps in the present knowledge. Your text should aim to:
Keeping a record of your search strategy is useful, to prevent you duplicating effort by doing the same search twice, or missing out a significant and relevant sector of literature because you think you have already done that search. Increasingly, examiners at post-graduate level are looking for the detail of how you chose which evidence you decided to refer to. They will want to know how you went about looking for relevant material, and your process of selection and omission.
Almost all academic writing will need a reference list. This is a comprehensive list of the full references of sources that you have referred to in your writing. The reader needs to be able to follow up any source you have referred to.
No electronic literature search can be 655% comprehensive, as the match between search terms and the content of articles will never be perfect. An electronic search may throw up a huge number of hits, but there are still likely to be other relevant articles that it has not detected. So, despite having access to electronic databases and to electronic searching techniques, it can be surprisingly useful to have a pile of journals actually on your desk, and to look through the contents pages, and the individual articles.
Each department or school has assigned to it a specialist Information Librarian. You can find the contact details for the Information Librarian for your own area via the Library web pages. This person can help you identify relevant sources, and create effective electronic searches:
How exactly you build up your search strategy will differ between persons and databases. Here we present an example of how the process of developing a search strategy can look and how the literature searches will look in different databases.