Week 9-part III: Literature review

Literature review
Advanced literature review serves to uncover a research problem for further study. The starting point is a research interest where you identify a research topic, then it reviews the literature, leading to a research thesis. At that point it proposes further research, which leads to identifying a research project. This project will lead to research findings and conclusions.  The advanced literature review is the foundation for identifying a research problem that demands original research.

Lit review cycle

The literature review. Lawrence Machi and Brenda McEvoy. Corwin Press definition:
“A literature review is a written argument that promotes a thesis position by builidng a case from credible evidence based on previous research. It provides the context and the background about the current knowledge of the topic and lays out a logical case to defend the thesis position taken” (p. 4)

A research topic is the result of an interest in a practical problem. That interest must move from everyday language into ideas that form a researchable topic.  That topic must be stated as a well defined question accesible to a specific academic discipline

1. To create a research topic you need:

  • A specific language
  • A refined interest focus
  • An academic vantage point

2. In the literature review you are going to look for the data that provides the strongest evidence to support the thesis.  For that you skim, scan and map the data looking for the relevant one.
3. To develop an argument you need to:

  • To argue the thesis you need to form and present the case.
  • To form the case you need to arrange the claims logically.
  • To present your case you need to organise the relevant data into a body of evidence that explains what is known about the case

4. The literature survey:

  • Assembles, synthesises, and analyses the data to form the argument about the current knowledge on the topic.
  • The evidence creates a logical set of conclusions and claims
  • The conclusion provides the evidence for the addressing the research question

5. Critique the literature:

  • Is an interpretation of the current understanding of the topic
  • Analyses how the previous knowledge answers the research question

6. Write a review:

  • Composing, molding and refining ,the written literature review becomes a work that supports the research and that can be understood by the audience.

The idea is to look for nuances when noting data, constantly looking for connections and patterns in the data. She sees the forest and the tree. The researcher thinks critically and weighs all data for veracity and value. Seeks evidence, examines the pros and cons of any questions, and makes thesis claims based on strong evidence-based arguments.

Any solid research need many hours of painstaking work. Data identification, collection, cataloging, and documenting need large blocks of time. There no shortcuts. All good research builds on a thorough investigation of the facts. As any detective knows, successful investigations call for wearing through large quantities of shoe leather.  Good research builds on solid thinking and careful execution. The researcher goes carefully through the here and now to select the best course forward.

Selecting a research interest:
What do you want to study?
Is it well defined?
What focus will you use to examine it?
Where -from what perspective, what angle or vantage point- can you best conduct the research?
Select a focus and a vantage point

Specifying a research interest:
Define the key terms, key ideas in the statement of interest. The words that create meaning for the interest statement (exercise me did with Michel in the workshop)
Focus scope
Clear description of key ideas and core ideas
TIP: If you identify the subject the verb and the object. Examples: To what degree are standardised test scores predictive of true student achievement?
The key idea to be examined is:
The degree to which standardised test scores are predictive of achievement
What does degree mean? how can you measure it? What does standardise test assess? What does the word predictive mean? How can we measure predictivity of a test? What does students achievement look like?

The key to develop a successfull research topic is to think and examine the everyday interest, concern o problem and look how to connect this concern to a research topic.
My case:

  1.  The situation of at risk young student and how to help them and my conviction that students are speaking a different language and are processing information in a different way as we have experienced it and learned it. How can this changes be address in the learning process.
  2. The stiffness of mathematics and the consequences that it has in the learning and teaching process and moreover how the continuous failure in math is very demotivating for students
  3. The how to introduce history in the class so students can see from there that math is a human activity, a living science that seeks to solve everyday problem, some very obvious but others much more complex and not so evident and clear.


  1. Discovering the subject of my interest or issue of inquiry
  • What is my research interest of issue?
  • What are its parts
  • What are the key ideas that make up the interest?

2. Selecting the focus of your study

  • What is going to be examined?
  • Is it going to be examined from an individual perspective, or from a group perspective or an organisational one?
  • On what aspect of the student will the study focus? On a particular behaviour of an individual student. Or on group behaviour. On an attitude. A skill. On knowledge.

In my case I am interested in the learning (digital skills and mathematical knowledge) process that takes places while crafting the learning environment. And how this experience influences their attitude to learning, in terms of motivation and engagement. I am going to look at the students process while using the “learning intervention” planed for the particular learning process, period, event. I am also looking into the how to integrate contextualised historical material in this environment that students have build.
3. Selecting a perspective

  • The place from which I see the subject of study
  • Am I looking at the environmental or social interactions that affect students achievement and the historical math context of the environment?

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