The Evolution of a Literature Review

Lit Reviews, no one told me about these things before I started on this little journey. People only told me about the Thesis or the Project, but never the Lit Review. I think there must be some sort of ritualistic secret pledge you must make, along the lines of the Free Masons or Illuminati, before you get your degree.  “Thou shall not speak of the Literature Review to any of the unwashed and unlearned masses!”

I am actually starting to enjoy the silly thing, but it is taking on a life of its own. I just wish I had more time to read and write. I am starting to understand why some people take a year or two off to do their masters.

What I am starting to like most about the whole process, is how the Literature Review is evolving. It took me a great deal of time, energy and thought to get started but things are moving along quite nicely now. The only concern now is that I honestly think it could go on forever. There is just so much out there to read and write about.

To start, the greatest struggle was creating a research question to work with. Then the reading began and that was a bit like sludging though waist deep snow to start but as you read you see new avenues to follow and key words to search. The path to the answer you are looking for, becomes a dendritic maze of possibilities.

As the journal articles stack up and your head becomes cloudy with more information you can possibly summarize, the answers to your research question begin to stack up. Then you begin to realize that you might want to rethink your research question. Is it adequate? did I ask the right question? Are there new questions I should be asking? Did I find answers to questions I should be asking? Fortunately I haven’t had to go back the drawing board, but I have had to tweak my research question.

To start I was doing this work flying by the seat of my pants, but as I continue I am finding myself leaning on the guidance of our text-book Educational Research – Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research by John W. Creswell. In the beginning I was dreading having to wade through this 600 page behemoth, but it has become very handy in trying to figure out what it is I should be doing.

Moving ahead I will need to start enlisting more help from my faculty advisor and all the other people available to help me. It has become abundantly clear that am not a 21 Century Learner and I am not much of a collaborator. I enjoy discussing things with the people in my cohort, but when it comes down to putting word to blog, I like working on my own. I have a feeling that this wont work for too much longer as I enter my last two terms of this degree.




  1. Jane Rees

    I share your feelings about being a collaborator. I too, like to discuss, rethink, ponder and then get back at it. Working alone, often makes me question the path of my research, often makes me wonder when and in what way I should be tweaking my questions and directions of my research. I have a feeling Valerie will be taking a lot of calls in the 3 weeks:)

  2. pixiebertha

    I did find too, that after reading some of the articles, the question started to become a little more clear and tweaking had to happen!!! Looking forward to more of your Lit Evolution!

  3. bryanjack

    I can identify with the ‘sprawl’ aspects of the various questions and extensions of the lit review, Keith. I think it becomes a matter of eventually drawing a line around everything that gets to be included at a certain point, and committing what you’ve found to a particular interpretation – which is a huge act of synthesis after nothing but boundaryless exploration, and not easy, to be sure. Glad to hear that you’re coming to that crystallization point! Can’t wait to share in the glories of drafting it (and the ensuring projects/theses) up with you.



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