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Literature Review. So far … #1. Introduction ( Lecture #1) Nature of research Definitions, Research as a process Classifying Research The field of research, The purpose of research The approach to research, The nature of research Types of research methods ( Lecture #2)

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so far 1
So far … #1
  • Introduction (Lecture #1)
    • Nature of research
      • Definitions, Research as a process
    • Classifying Research
      • The field of research, The purpose of research
      • The approach to research, The nature of research
  • Types of research methods (Lecture #2)
    • Qualitative research
    • Quantitative Research
  • Types of experimental design (Lecture #3):
    • Pre-Experimental Design
    • True Experimental Design
    • Quasi-Experimental Design
so far 2
So far … #2
  • Survey Research (Lecture #4)
    • Definition
    • Planning and undertaking survey
    • Information sources, search method
    • Guidelines, Documentation and presentation
  • Student Project Planning (Lecture #5)
    • An overview of project development process
      • Selecting a suitable topic,
      • Selecting an appropriate analytical framework,
      • Time management
    • Activity Network Diagram
      • Introduction
      • Example
in this session
In This Session …

literature search and indexing

recording references

literature review

How to “do” a literature review

Finding relevant publications

Structuring the literature review

Writing the literature review

Reminder: Setting the Scene

Refer to lecture notes: Supplecture5.ppt


Student Project Design and Idea Generation

overview of project work structure

Do MSc Project




Select a


Make a


Write up

Gather &

analyse data











Work Struct.

Overview of Project Work Structure

Source Ref: to be added

research design
Research Design
  • General sequence of steps in research design
    • Identify the research problem
    • Determine the purpose of research
    • Develop the theoretical framework
    • Define the research questions and/or hypotheses
    • Define the scope of the study
    • Decide on methodology
    • Define expected outcomes
    • Writing up

J Hussey & R Hussey, Business Research (Palgrave, 1997), Ch. 5.

identifying the topic
Identifying the topic
  • Why this topic?
    • is it topical, timely?
    • is there a clear need for work in this area?
    • if so, who needs it, who will use it?
    • how will the world be a better place?
  • Where does expertise lie?
    • who can you talk to?
    • what can you read to find out more?
    • does this confirm the need for the research?
  • Is the proposed research novel?
  • How does the project relate to other work?
    • does it follow on sequentially from something? (eg extension of previous project)
    • does it apply similar approach to another project?
    • does it fill a gap in knowledge?
    • draw a “mind map” of the subject
generating a research idea 1
Generating a Research Idea #1
  • Following questions can help to define a research focus including;
    • What does the research seek to find out? What questions does it aim to answer, or what hypothesis does it seek to test?
    • What areas of knowledge, subjects and disciplines will the research need to draw on?
    • What do we know already that is relevant? Where shall we need to add new knowledge or know how?
    • What are the likely sources for the required information?
    • What are the potentially useful ways of doing the research - the methodological options?
    • What limits must we set to the breadth and depth of the inquiry?
    • What obligations do we have to fulfil to the institution in which we are doing the research?

E Orna w. G Stevens, Managing Information for Research (OU Press 1995), Ch. 2.

generating a research idea 2
Generating a Research Idea #2
  • finding your research subject
    • brainstorming
    • ways of refining the topic
      • analogy - import ideas and procedures from a similar area
      • morphological analysis - methodical breakdown of key dimensions of general area of interest
      • mind maps - use network diagram to extend out from central concept
      • relevance trees - use hierarchical diagram to develop fine categories within research area
  • importance of literature review
    • to increase your knowledge of research area and methodologies
    • to scope, justify and decide feasibility of your proposed work
    • to develop critical appraisal and ability to synthesize
      • consider purpose, conduct, findings, strengths and weaknesses of the studies you read
defining research problems questions
Defining Research: problems/questions

identifying a research problem

developing research questions

1. read literature,

identify gaps

1. state purpose

of research

2. formulate specific

questions or


2. generate list of

interesting questions


6. does suitable

problem exist?



3. are they interesting

or important?

3. questions already

answered in literature?



5. have questions been

answered already?



5. eliminate

impractical questions


4. test feasibility

4. survey

relevant literature

to next stage in

research design

to next stage in

research design

J Hussey & R Hussey, Business Research (Palgrave, 1997), Ch. 5.

an example mind map

‘the role of information products and

information presentation in organizations’

organizational policy

- strategic objectives

- corporate planning

how organizations make

decisions on information





people involved in

information products

- decision makers

- professional specialists


information products

- how they are used

- medium of production

technology for

information products


- databases

- electronic publishing

- document management


management of information products

- writing - design - editing

- typesetting - production - budget

monitoring and evaluation

of information products

E Orna w. G Stevens, Managing Information for Research (OU Press 1995), Ch. 2.

An Example -- Mind Map
literature survey
Literature Survey
  • Literature search
    • a methodical search of published sources of information to identify items relevant to a particular need, for instance;
      • Topic selection, Find specific project information
      • Discover structure of information in a particular subject, etc.
    • But remember to
      • Define your initial topic, scope, content and parameters for your own work first
      • Decide on what sort of relevant information to your project
        • range of sources - eg, reference works, books and articles, government publications, theses, conference proceedings, standards and statistics, directories, company and market reports…
    • Structure how you get it
        • decide on a search order, allow enough time, keep detailed records
        • identify keywords for searching, use computerized databases and Internet, but narrow your search first
        • Keep notes of references on index cards or computer
searching cycle


Search statement






Search Strategy


Searching Cycle
information sources 1
Some useful links including;

Information Skills Tutorial

Some useful sources

Ei Compendex & Ei Engineering Village 2

All aspects of engineering and computing


Physics, engineering, communications, control engineering, and computing

Information sources #1
information sources 2
Cambridge Scientific Abstracts

Umbrella service for 30+ databases

Subject coverage includes computing, engineering and science

ANTE- Abstracts in New Technologies and Engineering

Computing, electronics, engineering including; biotechnology and medical technology.

Emerald Abstracts - Computer Abstracts International Database

All aspects of computing

Information sources #2
information sources 3
Information Sources #3
  • IngentaJournals
    • Incorporates full-text links to a number of engineering and computing journals
  • Conference papers
    • Index of Conference Proceedings
      • (via Web of Science)
    • ACM Digital Library
  • Finding theses and research in progress (GB and Ireland)
    • COS Expertise
      • COS Expertise, our knowledge management service for individuals and institutions, contains more than 460,000 first-person profiles of researchers from over 1300 institutions worldwide.
information sources 4
Information Sources #4
  • Full-text Access to Electronic Journals see
    • Ingenta Journals (,
    • ScienceDirect (
    • Emerald, Catchword
    • IDEAL
    • Expanded Academic ASAP International
    • etc,
  • Finding standards and patents
    • Technical Indexes: British Standards (
    • EEVL(
      • Select EEVL catalogue, tick resource(s) required, select resource operator (or/and)
    • Ei Engineering Village 2
      • US patents full-text
information sources 5
Information Sources #5
  • Finding company and industry information
    • Company/Professional association websites
    • Mintel Marketing Intelligence (Web)
      • consumer market research reports
    • Newspapers (Learning Centres, Web)
    • Findex see Cambridge Scientific Abstracts
  • Finding Internet resources
    • Search Engines such as;
      • AltaVista, Yahoo, Google
    • For CS and IT only
storing information
extracting information from sources - an exhaustive process

use key topics as ‘hooks’ for searching and storing

making notes

make accurate note of bibliographic details of item

at top of notes about any item, put key topic(s) prominently

don’t copy large chunks of text, but do note page no. of any quotations you might use

which vehicles to use for notes? Cards, loose leaf, notebooks? If notebooks, number them and number pages.

storing information - key decisions

what containers to use

how to arrange items in containers

like with like (need to label the containers by key topic)

in sequence (need to number items as they come in)

whether to create records of the items you store

probably yes

if no, items must be clearly labelled, and you will need an index into them by topic (etc)

Storing information

E Orna w. G Stevens, Managing Information for Research (OU Press 1995), Ch. 3.

evaluating your search results
Evaluating your Search Results
  • Ask yourself a number of questions;
    • relevant to your needs?
    • useful for the problem in hand?
    • date of publication appropriate?
    • obtainable?
    • level of information correct?
    • Too simple/advanced?
    • Is this a new information or do you know this already?
searching your information
Searching your information
  • Key considerations for indexing
    • decide what are the key topics
    • put them on index cards or use reference database software (Endnote)
    • use them as hooks to fish for information
    • put main topics on notes you make and on items you photocopy.
    • decide how to store your information - in number sequence or by main topic
    • set up an index - use cards from 2 or make back-of-book index to notebooks.
  • Searching your information
    • look up the cards for topics you want.
    • go from there to information store, and take out relevant items

E Orna w. G Stevens, Managing Information for Research (OU Press 1995), Ch. 3.

literature review1
Literature Review
  • Definition
    • A story or narrative, which documents the previous research that is relevant to your own research area
      • The literature review essentially “sets the scene” and prepares the reader for your own contribution
      • The literature review usually occurs as chapter 2 in your thesis
        • But other sections of your thesis are likely to contain references to material considered in the literature review
      • Also the literature review is also an opportunity to learn more about the subject area you are researching
  • Purpose
    • knowledge of current literature and your own reading
    • present it thematically or in an order that relates to the rest of the project structure
    • identify trends, gaps etc in the literature
    • analyse, evaluate and otherwise demonstrate that you have understood what you have read
  • ALWAYS check your project guidelines
planning the literature review 1
Planning the Literature Review #1

Planning the literature review

Set aside enough time to find, read and review a given publication.

75% of the literature review can be done in one session

The other 25% may be ongoing as your understanding, knowledge and research skills develop

Identify the main areas of the literature to be covered

Make up a “shopping-list” of these areas so you know what you are looking for

planning the literature review 2
Planning the Literature Review #2

Find relevant publications

Always follow the literature search cycle


to find 10 relevant publications you may have to read over 30

Thus you need to adhere to

Find, read and record relevant literature

Record the title of each publication

Record the source (e.g. reference or a web-page)

Make a brief note about the relevance of the publication

structuring your review 1
Structure the literature that you have reviewed

You could even use a table with appropriate categories

Start by drawing a “concept map” or an overall plan of the literature review chapter

Identify the main areas of the literature

This will include the “parent” or main discipline and the context of your research

The main areas will be the main sections in the literature chapter

Identify relevant sub-areas to be highlighted

Sub-divide the main literature areas into smaller sections

These sections will be the sub-sections within the main sections of the literature chapter

Structuring your Review #1
structuring your review 2
Section 2.1 (introduction)

Introduce your own research topic and explain what literature areas need to be reviewed

Briefly present your concept map or plan to show the reader how the literature review is logically structured

Section 2.2 to 2.x

Address each of the main areas of the concept map or plan

Try to move towards specific discussion of each area and identify what is already known and what is not known

Section 2.x (final section)

End by stating your own research challenge/question or any hypothesis

Structuring your Review #2

Structuring the literature review

structuring your review 3
Structuring your Review #3

Different literature review structures can be used including;

The ‘funnel’ approach:

from broad to narrow focus,

from main areas/issues to detail

from periphery to centre of research issue

The ‘family tree’ approach:

different levels of knowledge at each level:

various options/theories/issues

Time line

Concept map




2.2.1 2.2.2 2.2.3

Writing the literature review

guidelines 1
Guidelines #1

The literature review chapter should not be standalone but relates to other chapters

Ensure that the literature review chapter is closely linked to your study

Mention your research topic up-front

Then proceed to identify the main areas that will drive the literature review

Show how your study is related to previous work (e.g. extends, fills gap, applies in different contexts, etc.)

Use the literature review chapter to develop your own research framework or research model

Use the literature review chapter to help shape subsequent chapters in your thesis

Often to highlight the gap including research problem that your project is to focus on

guidelines 2
Guidelines #2
  • Try to review topics rather than articles
    • GOOD: reviewing topics
      • “Absenteeism has been defined in three ways:
        • genuine absences through illness [1]
        • voluntary non-attendance e.g. skiving [2]
        • frequent absences due to mental or physical health problems [3]”
    • NOT AS GOOD: reviewing articles
      • “[1] says voluntary absences are due to illness. [2] suggests some absences are simply due to non-attendance e.g. skiving. [3] did a study and found that frequent absences are caused by mental or physical health problems ”
additional lecture notes
Additional Lecture Notes
  • Lecture notes: literature survey
    • Literature_Survey.pdf
      • See guidance re: how to avoid plagiarism, etc.
  • Examples
    • An example literature survey (Also)
    • An example review paper
  • Oral Presentation
    • SuppLecture1.ppt
  • Technical Report Writing
    • SuppLecture6.ppt

No tutorial, just study the handout, which considers a good literature review and a not so good literature review.

You can find this article and other useful material on technical writing at the following URL

Also visit the online: Information skills tutorial at


next sessions
Next Sessions …

Roles of Supervisor and Project Student

Writing your MSc project proposal