The Theory of Research

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					                              Theory of Research
       Superficially the research process can appear to be relatively simple - if you
carry out the basic steps methodically and carefully, then you should arrive at useful
conclusions. However, the nature of research can be very complex and when you are
reading textbooks on research methodology you will come across many unfamiliar
words and terms. We first look at types of research and explain some of the terms.

Types of research

       The main different types of research can be classified by its purpose, its
process and its outcome. These can in turn be broken down further:

      The purpose of the research can be classified as:

           o   exploratory

           o   descriptive

           o   analytical

           o   Predictive.

      The process of the research can be classified as:

           o   quantitative

           o   qualitative.

      The outcome of the research can be classified as:

           o   applied

           o   basic or pure

           o   action.

Let us look at these in more detail.

Purpose of research

      Exploratory research

       This is conducted when there are few or no earlier studies to which references
       can be made for information. The aim is to look for patterns, ideas or
       hypotheses rather than testing or confirming a hypothesis. In exploratory
       research the focus is on gaining insights and familiarity with the subject area
       for more rigorous investigation later. In an undergraduate dissertation it is
       likely that you will be drawing on previous studies and so pure exploratory
       research is not generally appropriate for studies at this level – it is more
       appropriate for postgraduate research. However, it is possible that you may
    carry out an initial survey to establish areas of concern (exploratory research)
    and then research these issues in more depth, perhaps through interviews, to
    provide a deeper understanding (explanatory research).

   Descriptive research

    This describes phenomena as they exist. It is used to identify and obtain
    information on the characteristics of a particular issue. It may answer such
    questions as:

       o   What is the absentee rate amongst a particular group of workers?

       o   What are the feelings of workers faced with redundancy?

    The data collected are often quantitative, and statistical techniques are usually
    used to summarise the information. Descriptive research goes further than
    exploratory research in examining a problem since it is undertaken to ascertain
    and describe the characteristics of the issue. An undergraduate dissertation
    may include descriptive research, but it is likely that it will also include one of
    the following two types (explanatory or predictive) as you are required in your
    dissertation to go beyond description and to explain or predict.

   Analytical or explanatory research

    This is a continuation of descriptive research. The researcher goes beyond
    merely describing the characteristics, to analyse and explain why or how
    something is happening. Thus, analytical research aims to understand
    phenomena by discovering and measuring causal relations among them. It may
    answer questions such as:

       o   How can the number of complaints made by customers be reduced?

       o   How can the absentee rate among employees be reduced?

       o   Why is the introduction of empowerment seen as a threat by
           departmental managers?

   Predictive research

    Predictive research goes further by forecasting the likelihood of a similar
    situation occurring elsewhere. It aims to generalise from the analysis by
    predicting certain phenomena on the basis of hypothesised, general
    relationships. It may attempt to answer questions such as:

       o   Will the introduction of an employee bonus scheme lead to higher
           levels of productivity?

       o   What type of packaging will improve our products?
       Predictive research provides ‘how’, ‘why’, and ‘where’ answers to current
       events as well as to similar events in the future. It is also helpful in situations
       where ‘What if?’ questions are being asked.

Process of research

There is no consensus about how to conceptualise the actual undertaking of research.
There are, however, two main traditions of approaching a research topic –
quantitative and qualitative. Each approach demands different research methods.

      Quantitative research

       The quantitative approach usually starts with a theory or a general statement
       proposing a general relationship between variables. With this approach it is
       likely that the researchers will take an objective position and their approach
       will be to treat phenomena as hard and real. They will favour methods such as
       surveys and experiments, and will attempt to test hypotheses or statements
       with a view to generalising from the particular. This approach typically
       concentrates on measuring or counting and involves collecting and analysing
       numerical data and applying statistical tests.

      Qualitative research

       The alternative tradition is the qualitative approach. Here the investigator
       views the phenomena to be investigated as more personal and softer. He or she
       will use methods such as personal accounts, unstructured interviews and
       participant observation to gain an understanding of the underlying reasons and
       motivations for peoples’ attitudes, preferences or behaviours. With this
       approach, the emphasis is more on generating hypotheses from the data
       collection rather than testing a hypothesis.

       In reading around the subject you will find many alternative names for
       qualitative and quantitative research. It is good to have an understanding of
       these and to recognise them when you see them in research methods

       The features and differences between the two research processes are detailed

       You should note the following points:

          Qualitative and quantitative research methods are not clear-cut nor
           mutually exclusive – most research draws on both methods.

          Both approaches can generate quantitative and qualitative data.

          The difference between the two methods is in the overall form and in the
           emphasis and objectives of the study.
Outcome of research

     Applied research

      Applied research is problem-oriented as the research is carried out to solve a
      specific problem that requires a decision, for example, the improvement of
      safety in the workplace, or market research. For your dissertation it is not
      usually acceptable to carry out applied research as it is very much limited to
      one establishment or company and you are required to look at issues of wider
      significance, perhaps to your industry as a whole or to a sector of it. You may
      have already carried out a problem-based piece of research related to your
      placement. It is important to understand that the dissertation requires you to
      carry out some form of basic research – see below.

     Basic research

      Basic research is also called fundamental or pure research, and is conducted
      primarily to improve our understanding of general issues, without any
      emphasis on its immediate application. It is regarded as the most academic
      form of research since the principal aim is to make a contribution to
      knowledge, usually for the general good, rather than to solve a specific
      problem for one organisation. This may take the form of the following:

         o   Discovery – where a totally new idea or explanation emerges from
             empirical research which may revolutionise thinking on that particular
             topic. An example of this would be the Hawthorne experiments.
             (Gillespie, 1991)

         o   Invention – where a new technique or method is created. An example
             of this would be the invention of TQM (total quality management).

         o   Reflection – where an existing theory, technique or group of ideas is
             re-examined possibly in a different organisational or social context.
             For example, to what extent can Herzberg’s theory of motivation be
             applied to front-line workers in the contract catering sector?
             (Torrington & Hall, 1995)

      For an undergraduate dissertation it is most likely that you will be
      concentrating on reflection, as the scope of the project is unlikely to be large
      enough to consider discovery or invention.

     Action research

      This is a form of research where action is both an outcome and a part of the
      research. The researcher ‘interferes’ with or changes – deliberately – what is
      being researched. The critics of action research argue that since the researcher
      is changing what is being researched during the process of research, the work
      cannot be replicated. If it cannot be replicated its findings cannot be tested in
      other situations. This prevents general knowledge being developed and thus it
      cannot contribute to theory. Also, as the researcher is involved in the change
    process there is a loss of critical, detached objectivity. There are two
    approaches to action research:

       o   Classical action research begins with the idea that if you want to
           understand something you should try changing it.

       o   New paradigm research is based on a new model or framework for
           research. It claims that research can never be neutral and that even the
           most static and conventional research exposes the need for change in
           what is being researched. It involves inquiry into persons and relations
           between persons, and is based on a close relationship between
           researcher and those being researched. The research is a mutual
           activity of a ‘co-ownership’ involving shared power with respect to the
           process and the outcomes of the research. Those being researched can,
           for example, decide how the research will be undertaken, in what form
           and with what questions being asked. The researcher is a member of a
           ‘community’ and brings to it special skills and expertise. The
           researcher does not dictate what will happen. This type of research is
           most easily carried out when working with individuals or small groups.
           It means that the researcher must be highly skilled not only in research
           methods but also in the interpersonal skills of facilitating others. It is
           not, therefore, usually appropriate for an undergraduate student who is
           carrying out a major piece of research for the first time. Action
           research is often used by educationalists who are trying to improve
           their own practice by making changes to the delivery of their classes
           and by observing and asking students which actions work best.

    As you can see, there are a number of types of research and not all may be
    suitable for you in your dissertation. The key points to remember are as

   While the purpose of your dissertation may have some elements of exploratory
    or descriptive research you should concentrate on research that will mainly fall
    into the explanatory area, or perhaps predictive research if you are very
    confident. Explanatory research gives you the opportunity to demonstrate the
    skills of analysis and evaluation which will help you to score highly in your
    final marks.

   The process of your research can either be quantitative or qualitative and the
    different methods that can help you to carry out your research in this way are
    outlined more fully in Unit 3.

   It is likely that you will be carrying out basic or pure research in the reflection
    mode (rather than applied or action research) as this will give you the best
    chance of showing that you can test out a theory in a new situation.
Other research terms

You may find a number of research terms when reading about methodology and it
will help if you have some understanding of them as they can be confusing! The next
activity will help you explore some of these terms.

Please do not worry too much if these terms seem confusing at this stage. It will
gradually fall into place as you carry on with this pack and do more reading around
the subject. However, we hope this has demonstrated to you that there is a lot
involved in this research process!

Reresarch Proposal

A difference between a dissertation and almost any other piece of work is that you
have to decide on a topic and the title. You start with a blank sheet. This, for most
students, is daunting, troublesome and challenging. So where do you begin?
You begin with the ‘research proposal’. This is the document which sets out your
initial ideas and thinking and shows, to a certain extent, how much thinking you have
devoted to the issue. The research proposal form specifies the need for:

      topic and title

      a research question or hypothesis (not both)

      a review of some literature associated with the title

      some indication of how you are going to collect the primary data

      a time plan

      a bibliography of the literature consulted in putting the proposal together.

The key point about any research is that it has to concern something that you are
interested in. Motivation in undertaking research rises and falls. If you have no or
little interest to start with, then it will be difficult to lift that interest should you
encounter problems and a drop in motivation later on. In the following sections, we
consider each aspect of the proposal in more detail.
Topic and title
Where does the inspiration for your dissertation topic come from? There are various
sources but the most common, from which this interest may arise, are:

      personal experience

      something someone has said

      something you have read

      something you have studied
      something you have not studied

      your career aspirations.

What is an acceptable topic? Basically any topic is acceptable but:

      it must be in the area of your major pathway

      it has to be suitable for the level of study

      there has to be a literature base which discusses the various theories (concept
       and model are alternative words for theory) that underpin your topic.

Start by identifying the general topic area; then have a conversation with yourself that
narrows the topic down – to something that is more focussed – and then come up with
main aim or purpose of the dissertation.

If you have more than one topic in mind

Perhaps you have more than one area in mind – if so, you should go through the
above process with all of them to help you decide.
Refining the aim – getting the title
Having stated your aim in one sentence, you now need to think about it in more detail
to refine your ideas and thinking. Hopefully at the end of this you will have a short,
succinct title. To do this you need to have a conversation with yourself. For the
example on motivation this conversation may run as follows:

   1. Here is how I see the issue. ‘Increased or enhanced motivation leads to
      increased productivity.’

       But what are you referring to when you say ‘increased or enhanced
       motivation’? What actually happens in the workplace when motivation is
       increased? Or put it another way, what causes motivation to be enhanced?
       Possible answers are changes in the job design, management or leadership
       style, organisational structure or reward system. Why not change your

   2. Right! ‘Changes (improvements) in job design, leadership style, organisational
      structure, reward systems and so on, cause increased productivity.’

       Well, this statement appears to be true, but surely it only happens when the
       individuals in question have the ability to carry out the prescribed tasks in
       ways that are expected. Why not qualify it?

   3. OK. ‘Changes (improvements) in job design, leadership style, organisational
      structure, reward systems and so on, cause increased productivity when the
      individuals have the relevant ability (competencies).’

       That is better, but by now you should be aware of some of the managerial
       implications of your chosen line of research. You can see various new lines of
       research beginning to open even before you have completed the design of your
   research. So, you have now got the flexibility to direct your enquiry along the
   lines you find most interesting and appealing.

   Why not go back to the original point of focus? Motivation and motivational
   factors are about individuals and the outcome of motivation is satisfaction.
   Since your research idea is on workplace satisfaction your concerns are with
   job satisfaction. Why not give this interpretation of the issue?

4. Right. ‘Changes (improvements) in job design, leadership style, organisational
   structure, reward systems and so on lead to job satisfaction which causes
   increased productivity when the individuals have the relevant ability

   That looks even better, but couldn’t you shorten the statement?

5. ‘Job satisfaction causes increased productivity.’

   That is short and sweet. What about your conclusion?

6. ‘Increased job satisfaction causes increased productivity, given the right


   A nice short title!

   Notice the title does not begin with:

   ‘An investigation into …’


   ‘An analysis of …’

   The very fact you are undertaking research implies you are investigating or
   analysing. Also the title is short – aim for a maximum of 12 words in your

   As you can see from this activity, a diverse range of factors determines job
   satisfaction. There are many examples of this in the workplace. One example,
   relating to organisational factors, might be the effects on job satisfaction of a
   major hotel rebuilding programme. A feeling of lack of involvement or
   knowledge of what is happening may lead to a lot of resentment; moreover,
   building workers and noise can have a very disruptive effect on the daily work
   of a busy hotel.

   A dissertation would not cover all of these possibilities. It would probably
   concentrate on one or two at the most. The above list shows there are at least
   10 potential dissertations in this area. It is important that you narrow down
      your topic to a very specific aspect for investigation. You are looking for
      depth not breadth.

Research questions

      Whereas the aim or purpose statement explains the general direction of the
      study and is summarised by your title, the research questions (or hypotheses)
      expand on this by providing detail. This is a critical stage in your research,
      even though it appears early in the process. If you do not ask the appropriate
      questions you will not be able to collect suitable data and arrive at sensible
      conclusions. By research questions we do not mean the detailed questions you
      might use in interviews or questionnaires, but questions which identify the
      general nature of research or issue you wish to focus on.
              At the proposal stage we want the core or key question, or, to put it
      another way, we want a ‘grand tour’ question. After further reading you might
      identify another key question, but remember, the more core questions that you
      have, the more work you will need to do.
      A core research question should imply:

         an explanation of some phenomenon

         a relationship between variables

         a comparison between variables

         prediction

         analysis.

             This list is only for illustrative purposes and is not exhaustive. There
      are many other possibilities. A point to note, and one that is often ignored by
      students, is that a question ends in a question mark.

              In the above example, the researcher does not know if there is a
      difference between younger and older students and is interested in determining
      this. However, suppose the researcher knows there is a difference (from other
      research) and wants to find out why there is a difference. The aim of the
      dissertation and main research question will change, even though the title
      remains the same.

              An alternative way of posing a research question is to state a
      hypothesis (plural hypotheses). A hypothesis is a proposition about the area
      that you are studying and is expressed as a statement of fact or what you
      believe to be true. You then try to find out whether the statement is true or
A ‘good’ hypothesis is:

   based on current knowledge and understanding (facts, theory)

   compares two variables

   can be tested by the collection and analysis of data.

    A hypothesis is worded such that it implies that the two variables are
independent of each other. Strictly this is called the null hypothesis. If we
consider the example on the type of degrees obtained by younger and older
students, we can state the (null) hypothesis as:

   There is no difference in the level of degree obtained by younger and older


   Younger and older students do not differ in the level of degree attained.

       This hypothesis is then tested by trying to disprove it by saying, ‘let us
look for evidence that would show the hypothesis to be incorrect’. In this
example this means trying to show that there is a difference in the level of
degree obtained. If we could find sufficient evidence to show a difference we
would reject the null hypothesis:

   There is no difference in the level of degree obtained by younger and older

    in favour of the alternative hypothesis:

   There is a difference in the level of degree obtained by younger and older

Of course, if you show there is a difference it introduces the questions, ‘What
is the difference and why?’
        The notion of a hypothesis is a difficult one and may not be necessary
for your research. However, it is a good exercise to try to phrase your research
in this way as it helps to clarify your ideas.
        Another type of hypothesis is a statistical hypothesis. These hypotheses
tend to be used when researchers are dealing with large amounts of numerical
data. Also theoretical statistical tests are used to prove or disprove the null
hypothesis. Such hypotheses are unlikely to concern you as you will be
handling smaller amounts of data.
Preliminary literature review

       For the research proposal, you are required to write an essay that identifies the
       main underpinning concepts/theories/models that are relevant to your
       topic/title/research question. This essay – the preliminary literature review –
       is a much smaller version of the actual literature review that would be found in
       your dissertation, but provides a starting point that you can use for

Primary data collection

       As with the literature review you are being asked in the proposal to do
       something that you have not yet covered in great detail. In particular, you have
       to try to identify how you are going to collect your primary data.

Time planning

You have now thought and written about the:

      title

      core research question or hypothesis

      preliminary literature review and bibliography

      primary data collection

   The penultimate stage of the proposal is to produce a time plan of what you are
   going to do and when. The plan should be detailed and include all the tasks
   necessary to complete your dissertation. Remember these are not discrete – many
   of the tasks have to be thought about in advance and overlap with other activities.
   They also take a lot longer than you actually think. For example, it is no good
   thinking that the literature review will take four weeks. You have to spend time
   finding material, reading the material, writing a draft, submitting it to your
   supervisor, giving him or her time to read it, get feedback, and redraft based on
   the comments. Students often underestimate how long data analysis and
   evaluation takes. At undergraduate level it should take a minimum of four weeks.
   Many students, because of poor planning, or things going, wrong find themselves
   short of time towards the end of the dissertation and rush the analysis and
   evaluation. This often negates all the good work that may have gone before. A
   number of approaches are possible in preparing a time plan. The basic method is
   to list the weeks from the commencement of the dissertation to the submission and
   slot in the detail. In this way you can identify holidays and other times when you
   may not be able to work on the dissertation. You can also identify milestones and
   key dates.
Assessment of the proposal

               By now you have almost completed the proposal. The final step is to
       reflect on your proposal. You probably are very tempted to put in the final full
       stop and not look at it again! However, you need to reflect and re-assess what
       you have written.
                       Remember that you have to convince the supervisors who
               assess your proposal that you know what you are talking about, that
               you have given sufficient thought to the proposal and that you have
               devoted some effort to it. To do this, you need to ask the same
               questions the supervisors ask when assessing your proposal:

             Is the title clear and concise?

             Is the core research question appropriate and answerable?

             Does the preliminary literature review draw on authors from both
              textbooks and journals?

              o   Is it up-to-date?

              o   Is it sufficiently detailed?

              o   Is it descriptive or does it include discussion and debate?

              o   Is it written in a fluent, easy-to-read style?

             Is the proposed primary data collection reasonable at this stage?

             Is the time plan detailed and feasible?

             Is the bibliography correct?

             Has the proposal been spell-checked? Is it grammatically correct?

             Does it look professional?

       Hand in the proposal. Well done!
                                      UNIT 2
                                  Literature Review

The literature review is a key part of your dissertation and it is your chance to show
that you have the skills of academic writing appropriate for an honours graduate. You
should have used all these skills before in your earlier studies but the dissertation
takes the skills of reading and writing to a higher level than you have achieved before.
In this unit, we help you develop your academic skills to the level required. These
skills are: searching the literature; record keeping; reading the literature critically;
making notes; writing a literature review; referencing and compiling a bibliography.

Searching The literature

Searching the literature is the starting point of all research and is the process of
exploring all sources of published information. This information, whether it is textual,
statistical or diagrammatic, is secondary. Searching the literature will enable you to:

      ascertain what has been published and by whom

      increase your knowledge and understanding of the topic

      assess whether the research topic is feasible

      possibly narrow the topic down

      refine or amend the research questions

      give you some ideas about the approaches, methods and analysis.

Getting started

You should aim to start your literature search as soon as possible. Everything
associated with research takes longer than planned and searching the literature is no
exception. At the very outset, you need to undertake the following:

      Define the scope of the research and set parameters, for example, by time,
       geography, industry, or sector of an industry. The more precise you can be the
       easier the task. Try and identify key words; include alternative spellings of
       these words or synonyms (words that have similar meanings). For example, if
       you are researching 'wage bargaining' you should also look at 'industrial
       relations' and 'conflict theory'.

      Conduct searches on these key words using a variety of sources. Only collect
       articles and books, etc., which are relevant, for example, in terms of subject
       matter, methodology, theoretical discussion, research instruments, etc
          Having found one reference in one source, use the references in that to guide
           you to others. It is important to try and get the most recent literature first and
           work back in time.

Sources of published information

Most students underestimate the number of sources and the amount of material
available. The basic problems are:

          knowing what is available

          where to find it.

We can classify sources as:

          paper-based sources - books, journals, periodicals, abstracts, indexes,
           directories, research reports, conference papers, market reports, annual reports,
           organisations' internal records, newspapers, and magazines

          electronic sources - on-line databases, Internet, off-line databases (CD-
           ROMs), videos and broadcasts.

Technical skills

To find the appropriate information, the researcher needs many technical skills.
Consider the following:

          Do you know the Dewey classification system?

          Can you access data from on-line databases?

          Can you access data from off-line databases?

          Do you know what government publications are held in your university

          What market intelligence reports are there?


Record Keeping

It is fundamentally important that you keep a record of the details of any text you
read, whether it is a book, article or information on the Internet. Should you wish to
return to the material some time later you will know where to look. Finding
information is hard enough, finding it again is even harder!

Keeping a record of a text you have read can be done in a variety of ways - using
loose sheets of paper, a notebook, index cards, or electronically with a spreadsheet,
database or even a personal organiser.
Index cards

One way of keeping a record is to build a card index system. It has the following

      They are easy to sort, for example, into topic areas, alphabetical order, etc.

      They can be colour-coded, for example, by subject.

      You can insert cards as you read more.

      You can carry them around with you.

      They stand up to wear and tear.

      You can check texts and information as you find it.

      You are building a bibliography as you go; you will need this eventually and
       thus ultimately saves time.

Having found a text, note the following basic details immediately on the card:

   1. Book or article title.

   2. Author's surname and forename and any subsequent initials.

   3. Year of publication.

   4. If a book: book title, edition if 2nd, 3rd, etc., place of publication, publisher,
      chapter or page numbers.

   5. If an article: the article's title, journal name, volume number, issue or part
      number, page numbers.

   6. Library catalogue number (Dewey decimal number).

   7. Precise details when found, also location, floor, room and shelf.

The completed front of index cards for a book and an article in a journal are shown

               Book/journal:              Book
               Author:                    Kerlinger, F.N.
               Date:                      1986
               Title:                     Foundations of Behavioural
               Edition:                   3rd
               Place:                     London
               Publisher:                 CBS Publishing, Japan
               Location:                  St Mary's Road LRC
                                          Floor A3, Shelf 4
               Date found:                20 October 1999
               Classification number:     150.72/KER

               Book/journal:              Journal
               Author:                    Brown, M.
               Date:                      1996
               Article title:             Environmental policy in the
                                          hotel sector
               Journal title:             International Journal of
                                          Contemporary Hospitality
               Volume/Number:             Vol. 8, No. 3
               Page numbers:              18-23
               Location:                  St Mary's Road LRC
                                          Floor B2, Periodicals
               Date found:                20 October 1999

Reading Material Critically

The SQ3R strategy, which stands for:is an approach not just for reading a text but for
reading a text effectively, efficiently and critically. It has been found to be particularly
useful because it can be applied to different texts (for example, textbook, article or
dissertation) and the type of reading required (for example, overview of the text or
detailed reading).

Most people who are given a new book start reading the text without making any
attempt to gain an overview of whether the book or article is worth spending time on.
It is important to survey the whole before you attempt to read the parts. Here are a few
suggestions about how you should gain this overview. To begin with, consider the
start and the end of the book:

        Title page - This can give the answer to some important questions: the general
         subject area, the level of approach, the author's name and qualifications, the
         year of publication.

        Table of contents - This gives you information about the scope of the book,
         the way it is organised, and the main chapters and sections. It is a very
         valuable source of information in signposting the issues raised.

        Preface - The preface, author's remarks, foreword or introduction, will often
         give you an overview of the author's intentions and assumptions. This can be
         particularly valuable when there are different views about a topic.

        Index - Turn to the back of the book and glance through the index; this can
         give a more detailed source of information about the book. It is particularly
         useful if you are looking for references on a specific topic.

        Bibliography - Is there a bibliography (some texts call it References)? How
         many references are given? Many or few?

        Glossary - Is there a list defining key words used in the text? Would it be
         useful to know any definitions before you start reading?

        Appendices - Are there any appendices? Consider when these might be

        Leaf through the book - Turn each page, looking at section headings, any
         chapter summaries or key words. Any pictures or figures and tables can be

        First and last chapters - For a journal article especially, it is useful to read
         the first and last paragraphs. Often these will summarise the key points made.
         Some of the better textbooks will have chapter summaries or a list of key
         points or concepts developed. Headings and sub-headings are also valuable in
         setting the scene.

        Surveying a chapter - Having gained an overview of the book, you may wish
         to look at one chapter in greater depth. Even if you are just dipping into a
         particular chapter in preparation for a tutorial you should adopt the same

This survey should take no more than 10 minutes. Investing in this time pays good
dividends. You will find that with practice even a few minutes will give you an
overall idea of the content and layout.

The survey process will have helped you to develop further the questions that you
want answered. Never start detailed reading until you have some clear questions
requiring an answer. Questioning is a vital stage in assisting with recall. These
questions will vary according to your tasks, but some issues are probably common.


      How does this text fit in with what I already know?

      Who is telling me this?

      Does the author offer evidence to support or contradict the views being
       presented? Is the piece being argued from only one point of view?

      Is the language used reasoned and objective? Or is it emotive?

      What theoretical perspectives does the author apply?

      Is the material up-to-date?

      What can I do with the information?


Reading in detail is the third step - it is not, as many students seem to think, the one
and only stage! In planning your reading remember some key points:

      Reading with purpose is more effective than reading without purpose.

      Make reading an active process - in other words, you are actively in search of

      Divide your reading into manageable sections. Do not try and read too much at

      Make notes after you have read a particular section. Do not try and make notes
       as you go. This interferes with your ability to question and concentrate.

      Look for the idea behind each paragraph. There should be one sentence in the
       paragraph that sums up the key idea.

      Look for the author's plan. What is the main idea? How does the author
       develop the idea behind the book, through the chapters, sections and

      Read the passage again - you may find it easier to return to the book the next
       day. Difficult concepts will then appear less difficult. Do not expect to
       understand everything on the first reading.

With the SQ3R method, studying does not end with reading the text. You may
understand the text, but will you be able to recall it? Most people forget 50% of a
book within seconds of putting it down!

Organised recall strategies will improve your learning in a number of ways:

        You will concentrate because you have a task ahead of you.

        You can correct memory lapses, thereby making your learning more effective.

        You will be active during the learning process. Again, this will make you
         much more effective.

The key recall steps are:

        Depending on the text, try to recall the key points made by each paragraph
         within a section, preferably in your own words.

        Jot down the key words.

        It can be useful to try and recall the main explanatory sentence in each


Always check the accuracy of what you recall by viewing again the material you have
studied. The best way of doing this is to repeat the process - survey, question, re-read,

Making Notes

There are two particular aspects to take into account in note making:

   1. What are the contents of the notes?

   2. Where do you record the notes?

Contents of the notes

It is up to you what you record and the depth or detail contained in your notes. You
can record key words, chapter headings, a summary (which may be provided in the
text), quotations, personal opinions, etc. For example, the following is a 62-word
summary of a book written by Carl Boggs in 1980 called Gramsci's Marxism.

"Straightforward introduction. Easy to read, logical in its structure and presentation of
Gramsci's work. Well articulated background of Marxism and the philosophy of
Praxis. Excellent in accessing the notion of ideological hegemony and its role in the
class struggle. Makes Gramsci and his work understandable and applicable to modern
capitalism by taking the key concepts and exploring and applying them in context."

Where do you keep the notes?

Some possibilities of the place where you keep your notes include the following:

   1. Use the reverse side of the index card if the comments are short.

   2. Use loose sheets of paper, a notebook, or a photocopy of the material.
      Whichever of these you use you should cross-reference to the index card.

   3. If you use notebooks or paper, do not write on the reverse side as you may
      wish to cut it up and re-order the material, for example, topic-by-topic.

   4. On photocopies you can use a highlighter pen for key words, sentences,
      quotations, etc.

Writing a literature review

You have to do this twice - once in your proposal and once in your final dissertation.
In your proposal, the literature review is rather like an essay and should discuss the
key points of relevant literature that you have found on the topic identified in your
title. This section is likely to form the bulk of the proposal, and the committee will be
looking for evidence that you have found some key and relevant texts in the topic
area, have read them, identified some key themes and issues and can discuss them
with a level of understanding. It is not expected that you have undertaken a complete
literature search but it is expected that you have made a start and read around the
subject. You cannot develop your research questions or hypotheses unless you have
done this. It should be 600-800 words long and end with a list of full references. A
literature review is not done book by book (or source by source) but is integrated and
written up under key themes and issues that may or may not have headings.

In your dissertation, the literature review is much more substantial but the same
principles apply. You should use an integrated style presented under clear and logical
headings. Most of what follows is relevant to both the proposal and to the dissertation
- it is really a matter of scale that differentiates them.

A literature review is a written summary of the findings from the literature search. Its
purpose is to provide proof of scholarship - to show that you know the literature and
you have the intellectual capacity to read it, develop the theoretical argument and be
able to give a critical, constructive analysis of that literature.

Writing a review is a demanding exercise. You will not get it right first or second
time. Much material that you have found and recorded will not be used. Editing and
discarding information is heartbreaking but essential.

Some tips on writing up the literature

      Start writing as soon as possible.
      Select and cite only relevant material - you do not need to include a mention of
       everything you read.

      Group the material into categories and comment upon the most important

      Be critical. An uncritical review tends to be descriptive, where everything
       merits a one paragraph entry, such as 'Smith (1985) found...; Jones (1987)
       found....' A critical review shows that you have studied existing work in the
       field with insight by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses; by comparing
       the results of different studies; and by evaluating theories, etc., with reference
       to your own study.

      Use quotations to illustrate a point and add an extra dimension to your

Structuring a literature review

It is often difficult to decide how to organise the huge amount of information you
have collected. The structure of each dissertation will be different but there are some
general principles and these are really the guidelines you should use for any piece of
academic writing. The dissertation is just much longer than most essays or other
pieces of work.

      Introduction to the literature review

       There should be an introduction to your literature that signposts the content by
       stating the approach you will take and puts forward the central ideas and
       purpose of the literature review. It 'sets the scene' and provides a 'map' of
       where the literature review is going to take the reader and why. It should also
       stimulate interest. It is likely that this part will have to be written after the
       main sections. It is not likely to be more than half a page long but needs to be
       carefully crafted.

      Main part

       This should consist of discrete sections arranged in a logical order. Unlike an
       essay where paragraphs are simply arranged in order without headings, a
       dissertation needs clear headings due to the size of the work. Headings help
       the reader, and you, the writer, to keep on track. Each section should be
       devoted to one topic or theme, and each paragraph within each section should
       confine itself to a single idea. The first sentence of a paragraph should indicate
       what the paragraph is about in some way and then move on to develop that
       idea supported by evidence and examples. Avoid having a lot of short
       paragraphs of one or two sentences. Also avoid lots of lists. This may be
       appropriate for report and business-style writing but is not suitable for essays
       or dissertations.

       The key concept here is of developing an argument, and your tutors will be
       looking for the following:
           o   The writing shows a sense of purpose and direction, as though the
               writer knows where he or she is going and is leading the reader there

           o   There is a definite central idea with reasons for it and evidence to back
               it up and support it.

           o   The writing may present a 'case' for a certain viewpoint.

           o   The writing is logical with ideas or events linked together in a logical

           o   The ideas are put together in a way that is clear to the writer and to the

      Conclusions

       At the end of your literature review you must summarise and draw conclusions
       about the key points in your writing. There needs to be a sense of completion
       to the whole piece; you need to 'round off' rather than just stop abruptly. At
       this stage, you will discover just how much of your writing is descriptive and
       how much is critical. It is only when you are writing using analysis and
       evaluation that you are likely to be able to draw conclusions!

Styles of writing

       There are many different ways of looking at academic writing styles and one
       way is to try and identify which of the following styles you are using. All
       styles have their place but you need to be wary of spending too much time in
       your dissertation on the first two.

Chronological writing

       This style of writing looks at events over a period of time and relates them
       chronologically or in date order. Thus, historical texts would follow this style.
       Often students want to give the historical background to their research area
       and this is often appropriate. However, be careful not to overdo this. If your
       research question relates to the 'here and now' (and most do), then it is not
       appropriate or relevant to have three-quarters of your literature review giving
       the historical background. It may be appropriate for you to read it so that you
       understand the context of your study, but it is usually appropriate to confine
       yourself to a brief summary of the key points, or use this material in the
       introductory chapter to the dissertation.

       An example of this would be a student who wanted to research into whether
       the media treats women and men athletes the same in terms of sports
       reporting. There is a vast amount of literature on the historical inequalities in
       sport which make fascinating reading and could perhaps be mentioned.
       However, this student would be much better advised to concentrate the bulk of
       their literature on athletics, sports coverage in the media, gender bias in media,
       and content analysis of gender bias.
Descriptive writing

       It is likely that your literature review will contain descriptive writing which is
       appropriate for outlining characteristics, models, theories and diagrams, etc.
       However, beware of this style! If all your writing is descriptive then you will
       not show that you have the ability to critically review the literature and,
       therefore, you need to include some of the following styles.

Cause and effect writing

       Here you identify the link between one activity and another or one variable
       and another. What happened? Why did something happen? What were the
       consequences? This may be an appropriate style of writing in your literature
       review and is also useful for writing up your findings.

Compare and contrast writing (theme-by-theme)

       Here you take two or more concepts or ideas and compare them (looking for
       similarities) and contrast them (looking for differences). This often occurs in
       an essay where you may be specifically asked to do this. In a literature review,
       you may have identified a number of models or theories and want to compare
       and contrast them in order to develop a rationale for which one to use as the
       basis for your dissertation, or to help you construct a model on the best or
       most appropriate aspects of each.

Summarising writing

       Sometimes you are asked to summarise something for a piece of work, but this
       style is particularly appropriate for making notes on key topics, summarising
       the key points. When doing this, think about why you wish to include this idea
       and how it fits in with your overall dissertation. You may need to summarise
       the key points of someone else's work in your dissertation. Summaries are
       often descriptive.

Analytical writing

       Analysis means breaking things down into their constituent parts. For
       example, if you were to analyse milk you would find, in simple terms, that it
       consisted of a large amount of water, protein, sugar and various minerals and
       vitamins. In academic writing this means you have to 'unpick' or 'tease out' a
       concept in order to answer questions such as:

Evaluative writing

       In order to evaluate, you have to make a judgement or put a 'value' on
       something. Is it 'good' or 'appropriate for the purpose', or 'inadequate' or
       'lacking evidence', or 'useful' and so on? To do this, almost certainly you will
       first have analysed the data in order to make your judgement. Analysis and
       evaluation go hand-in-hand. You then have to go one step further and say why
       something is 'useful', or whatever, and give reasons for your judgement.
       It is quite likely that your dissertation will contain most, if not all, of the above
       styles of writing. They apply not only to writing up the literature but to all
       sections of your work. There is also some overlap between them. For example,
       chronological writing could also encompass any of the other styles although it
       is often used descriptively - first this happened, then that happened. Your
       tutors will be looking for you to use a range of writing skills in your
       dissertation as appropriate, but make sure that you minimise the descriptive
       writing and try to develop the other styles.

Language and writing

Note some key points about language:

      Keep it simple and clear.

      Do not use a long word when a short one will do.

      Try to have an average sentence length of 15-20 words; long sentences are
       hard to follow.

      Always use the 'third person'. Do not use words such as 'I', 'me', 'my'. For
       example, write, 'It could be considered that', and not, 'I think that'.

      Check spelling and grammar; if this is a weak area then improve by asking for
       feedback from your tutor; reading texts on grammar, punctuation and spelling,

      Try to write in a way that will be interesting to read. Your tutors have a lot of
       dissertations to mark and one that is interesting and enjoyable to read will be

      You need to show that in addition to describing something you can interpret,
       apply, evaluate and reach conclusions. Some useful words and phrases are
       given below to help you identify when you are doing what!

Compiling a Bibliography

One of the common features of a good essay or other piece of academic work is the
appropriate use of references and quotations. In both cases, they will add scholarly
weight to your work, but they must be properly dealt with.

Any idea which is not your own but comes from someone else must be acknowledged
in your writing. This acknowledgement of the source of the information is called a
reference or citation.

Referencing aims to:

      help the reader to distinguish between your ideas and those from other sources
       give authority to ideas that you are putting forward by showing that they have
        independent theoretical support

       enable readers to check and follow up for themselves the authors you have

       indicate in a concise fashion the existence of the body of published work that
        you have used in preparing your essay, report, etc.

       avoid the accusations of plagiarism.

You will lose marks if you do not reference correctly.

Using references within your text

There are many ways to give a reference used within the text. Perhaps the most
popular method, because it is the simplest, is the Harvard System - where the
author's surname is followed by the year of publication. This is also known as the
'author-date' system and is the method we advise you to use in all your writings whilst
studying on this programme.

As well as the general aims of references given above, references within the text are
specifically used to:

       provide support for ideas (see 'a' below)

       cite supporters of ideas (see 'b' below)

       acknowledge the source of ideas (see 'c' below)

       establish facts (see 'd' below).

   If there is one author who is the subject of the sentence (such as 'a' and 'b' above)
   the date of publication is put in brackets (parenthesises) after the surname.

   If the reference to both the author and the date of publication are not a main part
   of the sentence (as in 'c' and 'd' above) add them parenthetically at the end of the

   If you refer to Smith again within the same paragraph, there is no need to quote
   the year. You can say, for example:

   As Smith argues...


   Smith's position on this is...

   Here the reference to Smith indicates that you are still presenting the ideas of his
   1997 article. If, in another paragraph, you wish to refer to Smith again, revert to
   specifying the name and the date - Smith (1997)
If the work is the product of an organisation and does not carry an individual author's
name, the name of the organisation is used:


In a survey of households in the UK in 1997, it was found that 80% of them had a
washing machine (NOS 1999).

If you have read an article by Elliott written in 1996 in a book by Kitson and
Campbell that was written in 1998, cite the author who wrote the article (Elliott) not
the author of the book in which you found the material (Kitson and Campbell).


You want to quote only when it is especially important for your reader to see and
appreciate the precise wording of the original. You may choose to do this to:

      provide the reader with the original when you are discussing the text in detail

      illustrate a point precisely

      discuss interpretations of a well-known authority

      respect the wording of the original when the impact would be lost if you tried
       to explain it or paraphrase it.

Quotations should be directly quoted, using the exact words, punctuation and spelling
of the original author irrespective of the source. A specific quotation from a text
should always be identified with its page number after the date of publication. A colon
separates the year and the page number. All quotations should be enclosed within
speech marks. It is common to italicise the quotation as well.

...can be included in the main text.

Longer quotations should be started on a new line and indented further from the left-
hand margin than the main text.

It is not appropriate to put long passages in quotation marks. For an extended citation,
you should summarise the material in your own words and give the appropriate
reference. As a very rough guide, you would not expect to use more than one or two
sentences in quotes on each page of your text.


A bibliography is a list of all references, whether cited or not in your work, which
have been consulted in the preparation of the work. It should be possible to see from
the bibliography, which texts are books and which are articles. Unfortunately, there
are many variations in bibliographic styles.
The variations are based on the use of upper and lower case letters, commas and full
stops, italics, bolding and underlining, and the position of the various elements that
make up the reference.

Do not devise your own system. For simplicity and consistency, the following
approach to constructing and writing a bibliography should be adhered to and is based
on the Harvard System. The bibliography should:

      be in alphabetical order of authors' surnames. If there is no author, the issuing
       organisation should be used

      appear at the end of the work and not at the end of each chapter or section

      be a single listing and not be sub-divided into cited references and non-cited
       references, or books and journals, etc.

For a book, the order of the reference is:

      author's surname, followed by the initials

      year of publication in round brackets

      title of the book, italicised and only the first word and proper nouns capitalised

      edition number, if appropriate

      place of publication followed by a colon

      name of the publisher.

For an article in a journal the order is:

      author's surname, followed by the initials

      year of publication in round brackets

      title of the article in speech marks

      title of the journal in italics.

Then, if you also know:

      month or date of issue, the volume number, the issue number

      page number - preceded by 'p.' for a single page and 'pp.' for multiple pages.

For organisations the order is:

      name of organisation

      year of publication in round brackets
      title of the article in speech marks.

For articles in non-academic sources:

For articles in non-academic sources, such as a newspaper or manuals, the structure
and order is dependent on the availability of detail, such as the author's name, and is a
mix of the above procedures.

For a cited author quoted in another text:

      cited author's surname followed by the initials

      year of the cited author's publication in round brackets

      title of the cited author's book (italicised) or article (speech marks)

      author, year, title, location and publisher of the source text preceded by the
       words cited in, all enclosed in square brackets.

For an Internet source:

The reference style for Internet sources uses a modified Harvard system:

      author's surname, first name or homepage/institution/university/business name

      date if available

      <email address if given>

      title of document

      Internet address URL www.address

      date site visited.

Remember that you should be able to:

      cite an author (and variations) using the Harvard System

      quote an author

      construct a bibliography using the Harvard System

      be able to differentiate between books, articles, organisations and Internet
       sources when listed in a bibliography.


In this unit, you have worked through the skills of searching and reviewing the
literature, making notes and keeping bibliographical records. You have also worked
through some theory on writing more effectively, developing your writing structure
and style. These skills need practising and are applicable to any other modules you are
studying. Practise them and get feedback from your tutors. You should also show a
sample of your draft literature review to your supervisor who will be able to help you
with these skills.