From research question to
via a literature review
Hi Brad! Say,
what’s your PhD topic?
I’m looking at something really
the influence of Andy Warhol
and American pop art on the
look and feel of PowerPoint
Amazing! So what do
you want to know
about the influence of
pop art on
Wow! Good question!
What I want to know is
…. ummm …
Heck, I want to know everything!
Like, how important has pop art
actually been in the design of
Was Andy Warhol a
Does Bill Gates
collect pop art?
Can PowerPoint be art?
But most of all, Jen…
I want to know whether
PowerPoint turns us all into
mindless Microsoft clones
……you know, like all those
Andy Warhol soup cans!
And is that a
good thing or a
So I guess one research question
software destroy creative
thinking in modern
corporations, or does it
actually enhance it?”
You know, you could
maybe get some
industry funding for
Gee, that’s brilliant Jen! Thanks.
“Does presentation software
destroy creative thinking in
modern corporations, or does
it actually enhance it?”
I like that!
So to answer that I guess I need
to find out … uuhhh?
Well, what kind of work do you need to
do in order to answer your question?
You need a list of OBJECTIVES, Brad!
Boy, is she
Objectives are not questions—they’re
In your objectives, you’re
working out the steps you
need to take in order to
answer your research
This is a very important process,
Brad, so listen up…!
… because later your objectives will form
the basis of your METHODOLOGY.
After all: your objectives are really
statements of what you intend to do to
find the answer to your research
and your methodology just applies a
particular approach or set of approaches to
that same process of finding out
Your objectives are therefore
structured using action-words like:
•argue They’re rather
feel, don’t you
… Brad? Brad?
Oh no … he’s gone straight off to the
library to write his candidacy application
but he doesn’t know that he has to do a
LITERATURE REVIEW first!!
I’ve got to find him! What if his
research question has already been
answered? What if it’s just not an
Brad! Brad! Wait up…!
BACKGROUND: Literature Review
What it should NOT be:
A descriptive list: a series of paragraphs beginning with yet
another author's name; or a series of summaries
What it should be:
A thoughtful thematic review of the exemplary, theoretical and
methodological issues you are dealing with --
focused around your research question, and written discursively
telling your readers which academic conversations you are taking part in - and
You need to tell your readers which academic
conversations you are taking part in - and why:
1. exemplary - historical, comparative
2. theoretical - historical and contemporary
frameworks of explanation
3. methodological - how others have tackled similar
(or even very different) problems
Use the literature review:
1. to help you determine and articulate what is
known and what is not known,
or what has and what hasn’t been done,
in the area;
that is, the questions that need further
2. to identify
areas of debate or disagreement,
controversy or inconsistency.
Some of the most useful pieces of work are
revisionist in nature
They take older positions/frameworks and
reposition and rethink them
Use the literature review
3. to practice and develop research techniques
to read in a targeted way
to develop skills of critical appraisal and your
capacity to identify the objectives and
arguments of those you are reading, and to
articulate their strengths and weaknesses
Use the literature review
4. to think laterally and creatively about other
potential search areas