In past blog posts, I’ve talked about the MEAL plan, and the importance of using evidence (the e from MEAL) from empirical research; However, in literature reviews there are specific skills related to presenting that evidence that you need to add to your writing tool belt. These include writing sentences that show rather than tell, and writing densely cited sentences to show the larger landscape of a topic.
Show Versus Tell
In courses, you likely cited studies very generally to help you make a point. However, when you write about studies in the background section of your prospectus or within the literature review, you should avoid generalized references that tell about studies and instead show the evidence by sharing details about the study and specific results. Therefore, the following phrases should not be used in a literature review.
- Researchers have found….
- Research states….
In a previous post I shared this formula:
In this (methodology) study + data collection methods/participants = results.
Here are some ways this formula can be used.
Telling: Researchers found that boys were more likely to fail geometry than were girls (Smith & Wesson, 2015).
Allow Data to Show (Better): In a quantitative study of urban high school sophomores, Smith and Wesson (2015) found that girls (n = 135) were nearly twice as likely as boys (n = 110) to fail geometry (p < .05). Continue reading
Goal of the Interpretation of the Findings section:
Situating Your Results in Context of What is Already Known
Up until now, your role in dissertation writing has been to describe, explain, frame, and analyze what others have done. While your critical analysis was imperative in chapter 2 you never shared your personal opinion. In Chapter 4 you objectively presented the results of your study with no comment on what the results may mean. However, in this section of chapter 5, you get to comment directly about the results of your study. The Interpretation of the Findings section is a critical section—and in my opinion—the most fun to write. Very few people read dissertations from cover to cover, but this is a section that will likely be read more than any other.
Remember the gaps you worked to carefully to frame back in chapter 2? Now its time to situate your study results in with the current literature. What insight does your study bring? How does your study confirm, disconfirm, or extend the knowledge of what’s in the literature?
Preparing to write Interpretations of the Findings.
- Make a list of the major findings of the study; per research question (or data source depending on how you want to discuss the findings) from chapter 4
- Review the gaps you described in chapter 2
Before writing the implications section of chapter 5, I suggest you go back and read your significance section from chapter 1. [Learn more about what should be in a significance section.] When you were proposing your study, what potential did you think the data may provide? Now that you have your data, has your perspective changed? You should touch on these themes in the implications section. It is also a good time to review your study alignment. Step back, remember the problem you set out to address. The problem aligned to the purpose, which led to your research questions then methodology. It is in the implication section that you finally share what your study means for society. You finally get to answer the question, “Who Cares?” in relation to your study results. This really is the fun part!
As should be your habit by now, go to the dissertation checklist. Scroll down to chapter 5 and find the Implications heading. Now, write a topic sentence for this section that aligns with what is required. Here is an example of what that might look like.