School of Education: Reviewing the Literature and Evidence

Welcome to the second video in this
series which will look at how to engage with evidence and literature in the
process of planning your research or inquiry project in this video we’ll be
looking at the forms of evidence and professional knowledge that you might
want to engage with in order to enhance your understanding of the focus that
you’ve chosen we’ll look at the basics of conducting a literature review how to
look for find and use literature and evidence from the research to enrich and
inform your approach we look at how to ensure that you organize your reading in
such a way that it will help you to maintain a coherent picture of what
you’ve found and finally we’ll look at what’s involved in summarizing and
synthesizing what you found extracting the most relevant findings and insights
from the literature and fitting it all together into a cohesive whole so I’d
like to start with the basic premise that you saw professional knowledge and
insight that is relevant to your professional concern can take many forms
it’s not just about reviewing the academic literature although you’ll need
to do plenty of that too action research or teacher inquiry cycles will often
involve gathering and considering local evidence this can give you a sense of
the immediate contextual influences that impact on your area of research and can
be useful in shaping your understanding of the issue at hand this could involve
a range of preparatory evidence gathering such as discussions with
colleagues looking at policies procedures guidance material curricular
schemes of work existing local data all of which can tell us a great deal about
the context in which we are conducting our research a formal literature review
is a fundamental part of most research processes but the term literature review
means something different in the humanities and disciplines like literary
studies – what it means in the social sciences for the purposes of this video
and educational research generally a literature review is normally understood
as a systematic and wide-ranging survey of available literature
evidence looking at a wide variety of sources on your subject of study you can
see the key phases in a typical literature review set out below and I’ll
go through each and turn in a moment but to answer the question as to why we
conduct literature reviews while they ensure that we have well-developed sense
of what has already been researched and is already known in your chosen field we
can assess the strengths and the limitations of existing insights and
work out if there are any gaps in the evidence base that we can help to fill
fundamentally we’re looking to enrich our understanding and from there more
clearly define the focus and remit of our own research a literature review
will tell us if we’re looking in the right area it can give us ideas and what
has already been found to be effective in practice and it can shape our
approach to a proposed intervention finding literature is a key challenge
and normally done by researchers using key words to guide their searches whilst
you’ll need a clear idea of what these key words are it’s also a good idea to
build some flexibility in by using synonyms for some words to maximize the
number of hits you receive when searching using structured searches can
help you to maximize results or filter out irrelevant material it’s worth
noting that all ewc registrants have free access to exco education source
package and the e-book education a large educational research database which has
a range of searching options the other key point is to set clear criteria for
inclusion and exclusion of source material some sources are more reliable
than others by using higher quality sources such as peer-reviewed academic
literature research by recognized authorities work by government bodies or
recognized research institutes then you can be more certain and confident about
the information and evidence that you’re looking at
it’s also important to use your time efficiently most journal articles will
have obstructs and policy reports and evaluations usually have executive
summaries usually strategically to determine the relevance of what you’re
reading if an abstract or an executive summary suggests something is irrelevant
to your subject you may not need to continue reading it in its entirety also
take a critical stance towards the material that you read approach material
with caution I think carefully but the extent to which your sources are
dependable independent and uncompromised by bias the extent to which they’re
relevant to your focus and recent enough to be relevant I think about how
confident you are in the methodology and the methods used and the evidence that
they have produced by asking these questions you can be more certain that
you’re accessing the most relevant reliable and high-quality evidence it’s
an inevitability of research that at some point you will need to stop reading
and start writing but before you begin it can be useful to impose some order on
the material that you’ve consulted many researchers will produce short summaries
of the work that they’ve read in note form and then begin grouping studies
together around a particular theme group together those which have similar
findings or engage in similar debates this can often be the first step to
deciding on headings subheadings and as you progress can help you set up the
thematic and discursive structure or for your literature review researchers
conducting literature reviews are often urged to synthesize their review
essentially this means outlining the issues debates and findings you’ve
encountered by integrating material from across a range of sources which may
share a particular focus a typical paragraph in a letter
you should therefore summarize debates across a number of sources are not just
deal with one source separately at a time or an isolation a good literature
review will outline where sources agree and converge as well as where they may
diverge and engage in debate in your reading try to pay close attention to
how literature reviews are organized written structured and also the type of
discursive style and register authors use in their writing normally at the end
of a literature review the researcher equipped with the new knowledge and
insight that they’ve gained will pose research questions research questions
and not the questions that you will ask your research participants there the
questions that you want to answer by conducting your research project they
are effectively your study objectives the lines of inquiry that will guide
your data collection your analysis and the conclusions you draw from the work
research questions are fundamental to ensuring that your study is coherent
cohesive and maintains a clear and consistent focus throughout try to pose
research questions that are grounded clearly in the evidence that you’ve
reviewed this ensures that there is alignment built into every face of your
project your research question should be organized around a consistent and
coherent theme you may want to investigate different aspects of the
same subject and that’s perfectly acceptable but do ensure that the
research questions you posed relate to a common theme and to one another they
should also be achievable practical and answerable try to pose questions that
you can answer with the data that you are likely to gather so here’s a summary
of the key points that we’ve covered here useful insight in professional
research an inquiry can take many forms a review of literature and evidence is
essential to gain an overview on what is known and what can help shape your
research focus develop a strategic and systematic
approach to searching and screening and take a critical stance towards the
material that you read thinking carefully about how dependable relevant
and robust sources and finally organize your material and your writing
imposing order on the work as you progress these are the sources referred
to in this presentation and here’s some further reading on this subject these
are some really useful sources which can help you gain further insight into how
to conduct a literature review you

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