For a good literature review

This is taken from Dr. Sonja K. Foss, she has a coherent plan in order to craft the literature review of a dissertation. I want to add that the idea of doing a literature review, I think is not to find any answer but to be able to state a good and relevant question. It is aimed to see which are the missing bits in the field of interest one is in. So one important skill in the literature review is to be able to discover things and to see if there are new connections one can establish among the key terms of the research. In those connections is where possible the new can emerge.

Here we go with the plan:

Create a conceptual plan for the dissertation first: The lit rev will be useful and efficient when it responds to a clear conceptual plan. The conceptual plan should include:

  • Research question and subquestions
  • Bodies of literature that will be relevant to review
  • Data to be collected to find the evidence you are looking for
  • Procedures for collecting and analysing the data
  • Reasons why the study is significant or relevant
  • An outline of the dissertation -What will happen in each chapter-

Then other steps are still to describe but I will start with my conceptual plan Research question:

What processes are involved in the design and development of a personal learning environment for last year Education Studies undergraduates to use in ED6001?

Another tentative question is:

How can the university support and encourage last year undergraduates in the Education Studies degree (the majority are prospective PGCE students) to enable their effective engagement with digital technology and research skills to become digital research literate and flourish in the 21st century?

How might the university encourage last-year Educational Studies undergraduates to design and craft a PLE to use as a workbench in the dissertation module and engage them with digital literacy building on their digital capability?  Sub-questions:

  1. What are students’ needs, expectations, visions, aspirations, fears, etc. in relation to the use of technology (the digital environment) and the dissertation process? Can both aspects be then matched? (Students voice and engagement in relation to the digital experience at the university level)
  2. What informal systems (of digital and non digital tools) do students have already set up? (How can I find out how students do their studying? How can I capture what I do not know about their habits and ways to do stuff related to their studies? Cultural probes? What needs to be seen is how they have put in place thier tools and how they use them in order to see how can any design improve what is already in place and attend what they need. What I need to do is to uncover the meaning which is going on within their minds. Observe them in action, see what is not obvious to understand how they use the web-based tools.
  3. What is involved (or what structures need to be in place) in the design, production, and implementation of a digital ecosystem –a personalised learning environment- for last-year Education Studies undergraduate? (i.e. scaffolding, modelling, feedback. This will be part of what the external environment provides).
  4. What prior competences -in words of Wild, (2009) minimal conditions, (skills, abilities, attitudes, habits, and knowledge) are (or need?) to be present in the student when beginning to consciously build a PLE?
  5. What necessary triggers (Wild, et. al.Ibid) are developed along the journey towards the intended outcomes of the process?
  6. What are the intended outcomes for the student? (Do I need to specify the area in which I am considering those outcomes? Is it about digital literacy or is it also about knowledge and metacognitive (LLL skills?)
  7. How can the digital experience be embedded in the curriculum in a way that is meaningful for the student?
  8. What is the impact for the student (digital literacy, self-regulation, digital capability), the teachers, and the university?

It is important to scope the challenge or question I are aiming to resolve. In order to do so I need to ask 3 question to the research question following IDEO methodology which is more focused in designing processes than objects. I think that I am designing a process, the process of designing and implementing a PLE in a particular compulsory module of last-year students. Or maybe how the process of effectively learning digital literacy and enhance the digital capability?

  1. Is the question focused on ultimate impact?
    • Ultimate impact is something that needs to be addressed in more detail but generally speaking it has to do with who benefits from the findings of a research and in which ways. In general terms the solution is addressing a current need: improving digital skills in last-year students and in doing so enhancing their digital capability on one hand and on the other is to engage students as change agents of their own process. Also addressing their needs and expectations in relation to their digital experience in HE. Enhancing their digital research skills which is the core of the module. On the other hand if I could be able to find some theoretical answers to this new learning paradigm (not quite sure if it is new paradigm) maybe just learning in the post-digital era, that would be also an impact in a different level, more theoretical.
  2. Does the question allow for a variety of solutions?
    • I am not sure about this point. I am afraid that I am already proposing a solution which might be a big limitation? Ohh my God! this all so confusing!!!
  3. Does the question take into account context and constraints?
    • Yes it does. Although new constraints will arise once I have interviewed the new cohort of students. The research question tries to overcome some of those constrains and it is very clear about the context of the research, namely last-year Ed Studies undergraduates working in the dissertation module.

Now let me go to the bodies of literature I will review for my study. I made a conceptual map where I outlined the main literature (of course a work in progress). I am working on the link to the web-page format of this conceptual map. I need to find out how to export it as a web page so you can access all the documents. Here an image of the map. E-DynamicSpace - How can we engage students in digital literacy across the curriculum

Important–> Think about constructing solid theoretical foundations in order to the solution be sustainable within time. Next step is to code the literature: Once gathered the literature, take each book and article and while reading look for:

  1. Ideas that will help your thinking about your project
  2. Ideas that have a direct bearing on your project
  3. Claims and findings that support or disagree with your ideas
  4. Definition of terms
  5. Calls for follow-up studies relevant to your study
  6. Gaps you notice in the literature

PilesCreating piles: Print out labels with the key terms. Pile the notes you have taken in the step before in the right pile. For example, I am reading: A pedagogy-driven framework for integrating Web 2.0 tools into the educational practices and building PLEs (an article in the special issue of PLE) This article will go on the pile of PLE and also in the pile of students’ model, which is the learning theory pile. Later I will need to rethink it but for now it is ok. The piles that are to small should be rethought. Combining piles that may need to be combined.

To be continued with the other stages of the lit rev, but I am now DOING this step, lets see how it goes.

 –> How to write a thesis? May be useful for others 🙂


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