At the Walden residencies one of the themes you hear over and over again is Align, Align, Align. But what does that really mean? Alignment refers to the elements of a research study building on one another in a logical manner.
At residency 3 you work on the historic alignment tool, or the HAT. This tool helps you accomplish the alignment of the main elements of a research study. One element leads to the next, which leads to the next. If you answer “no” to any of the following questions, the study is not aligned.
- Does the background research show evidence of a problem?
- Is there a gap in understanding of the problem?
- Does the problem align to the purpose?
- Does the purpose align to the research question?
- Does the theoretical or conceptual framework logically help answer the research questions?
- Does the research question drive the methodology?
These are the exact questions your mentor, methodologist, and the URR will be asking when reviewing your premise, prospectus, proposal, and final dissertation. So, how do you keep alignment in the forefront of your mind when entertaining potential ideas for a research study? An important step is to realize that the central research question will determine the wording of both the purpose statement and the dissertation title.
The purpose statement, the central research question, and the dissertation title should all be parallel, and quite possibly word for word the same.
Purpose = Central Research Question = Dissertation Title
Literature Review is More Than a Summary of the Research Studies on Your Topic
Think of the literature review as a persuasive argument for why your study needs to be done. However, scholarly arguments are not like the persuasive essays you may have written in the past. Instead, you use facts, found in empirical research to show your reader what is going on in your field and within your topic. Your argument will be stronger based on the quality of the resources, how you organize the facts, and the logic you use to connect facts to your study.
However, there are a number of qualities that scholarly arguments should not include. The first is vocabulary that evokes emotion. While you should be passionate about your study, you are writing an academic, scholarly argument. The facts, not emotion should make the argument. Next, scholarly arguments should not be degree-indicating. Do not use words such as, very, fantastic, amazing etc.. Continue reading
Tagging Part 2: Digitizing Tags for a Reliable Cross-Referencing System
In my Tagging Part 1 post, I define what a tag is, describe why you should consider using tags, and then give examples of how to assign tags to research article you read for your dissertation. In this post, Tagging, Part 2, I will address the number of tags you might assign each article, and then how to use the tags as part of a larger, digital cross-referencing organizational structure.
How many tags should I assign to each article?
It depends. For example, you might have found this article…
Fram, S.M. (2013). The constant comparative analysis method outside of grounded theory. The Qualitative Report, 18(1), 1-25. Retrieved http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR18/fram1.pdf
…and decided to tag it with the big picture tags
But you might also want to further determine where in those chapters the article may help. Therefore, you could ALSO add APA Heading tags. I might choose
To further narrow the usefulness of the article, you might choose to use the Library Sub-Question Letters as an additional tag.
FYI: LibSubQ-E is “Why is the methodology I’m proposing the best choice to address the problem I’ve identified?” You can learn more about LibSubQ’s in my NoteTaking post.
Developing a System to Cross-Reference Articles
What is tagging?
Tagging is the term I use for assigning text tags, to literature, articles, and resources, that you may want to cite in your dissertation. Think of tags as keywords YOU assign to an article to help you cross reference it so you remember to use it later. I strongly suggest you do an abstract review in order to gain an overall picture of your topic, and to clearly determine the literature gap. At this phase in the process you’re not reading the article, only the abstract and maybe skimming portions of the article if the abstract is too vague. It is during the abstract review that you should assign tags. Using tags is a way to flag research, so you can group related articles on the same topic together. Tags are at the heart of an effective cross-referencing system.
Once you have your dissertation prospectus approved, you’ll be moving into high research gear! It might be daunting to think about all you have to do, but inch-by-inch, its a cinch. In this post, I will describe how you can use an Abstract Review to jump start your research process, by setting up a structured method of identifying and organizing the articles you find, and cross-referencing them to look at in more detail later.
Throughout this post, I will refer to specific slide numbers of my Voice Thread on Organizing your Lit Review, that I talk about in a my note taking blog post.
Early Goal: Use the Abstract Review to identify articles on your topic to prepare for the construction of your dissertation outline.
The graphic below is an overview of the literature research process. You are starting at the star; working to identify and obtain articles. During the Abstract Review, you are trying to accomplish the first three stages. Your job is to work on getting a good feel for what literature is out there regarding the major topics of your dissertation. Read chapter 8 of Dr. Dawidowicz’s book, Literature Reviews Made Easy so you see how you’ll use the information you’re organizing during this phase of the process.
Why Use Autocorrect?
When I was writing my dissertation, there were certain words my fingers just didn’t like to type. One such word was “asynchronous.” And unfortunately it was in the title of my study, and I used it A LOT. I have since found a wonderful tool embedded in Word where you can “teach” your computer to auto-correct words for you! Imagine how great it would be if all I had to do was type asy/ and “asynchronous discussions” would automatically appear. Imagine the efficiency!
What Does AutoCorrect Do? AutoCorrect allows you to assign a “text tag” to be replaced with a text of your choosing.
How Can You Use AutoCorrect? I like to use AutoCorrect to speed up my grading. For example, when I come across a sentence where the ideas are not clear, I insert a new comment and type
and Word replaces it with
I’m not sure what this means. Please rephrase for clarity.
See how much nicer that sounds?
Here’s another example I use a lot. (Maybe I’ve used it on one of your papers?) I type in
and Word replaces it with
This is an example of an anthropomorphism. Theories, concepts, paper sections, and literature reviews can’t “do” anything. Work on rephrasing this. See Walden Writing Center Website and this blog post.
Notice I can include links? Are you starting to get a feel of the power of this tool? Read on to figure out how to make it work for you during the dissertation phase.
If you haven’t yet harnessed the power of Google Scholar, you need to. There are lots of little ways that Google Scholar can help you find what you are looking for, and to help you reach “saturation” of the literature. Walden library suggests you use Google Scholar to supplement your database searches, not replace them!
#1 Tip: Pay attention to the links under the citation.
Use the “Cite” link to find the APA formatted reference. Always double check it, as it may not be exactly right, but its a good place to start. And you can also import the reference information into various bibliography software programs.
Listed below are two purposes of the dissertation literature review. The question being addressed here is: How old should the scholarly studies be for the LII/Educational Technology dissertation literature review?
1. Show a research gap for each research question using current research.
- Current research is to be no more than five years old when the student graduates.
- Consider setting up alerts in Google Scholar so newly published articles on your topic are sent to you email.
- When we review the reference list we would expect to find a minimum of 50-75 current research studies – do not include books or dissertation/thesis
- However, not all of research studies have to be 5 years old or less (keep reading)
2. Build an argument that there is a gap in the literature and situate it within the best research on that topic. This will provide the context and a long-range understanding of issue/topic. These contextual resources are the ones that can be more than five years old. This is where the “mining” you did (looking at who is consistently cited in the studies you’re reading) may be used and cited.
Side Note: you actually DON’T have to show a gap for your dissertation topic. The other option is to show that there is much disagreement in the MOST current literature regarding a clear conclusion on your topic. This therefore, justifies the need for additional data to further enlighten the subject. Your goal then becomes justifying how your innovative approach to the topic/study is worthy and might shed new light to a complicated problem.
While it doesn’t matter HOW you organize your reading and note taking, what does matter is that you actually have a method that works for you! I decided to share a VoiceThread introduction to the Walden dissertation proposal process as well tips for the Literature Review. The note taking method I share with you is the one I developed as a doctoral student myself. Its how I do it, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be your method. However, seeing how one individual takes notes will more than likely give you ideas on how to tweak your own system to work for you.
I will warn you, this presentation is long, and probably overkill, but I think it will be helpful. If the embedded code doesn’t work, Click on the graphic above to view my presentation titled, “Introduction to the Proposal, Note Taking, and Literature Review.” And here is the word document Literature Review Note Taking Template that I reference in the Voice Thread. It is on my Google Drive. If you are a mentee of mine, you can get your copy in Bb.
I have also provided a script of the presentation that you can download if you like! LitReviewNtTaking_Script
The note taking system I used is based on developing Library Research SubQuestions, or LibSubQ’s. In my video, I share how to develop LibSubQ’s for your own research study, show you how to use my note taking sheets to answer those questions, and provide tid-bits of advice on how to save time in the research process. The beauty to this system, is that in the reading of one article, you will most likely be able to find answers several LibSubQ’s. This will also helps you to cite more than one resource per LibSubQ. You’ll be on your way to having strong evidence for each sub-topic from a variety of resources.