An important skill and habit to develop when one decides to do research is to read. For example, in any scientific publication is a section about the literature related to the topic.
However to do a proper literature search is something one has to learn. When I arrived to EdTech I was clueless of a lot of the basics, including literature search. Matti, who was finishing his PhD at the time was very kind and explained me in a nutshell about literature search. I kept his words carefully.
Over six years later I still have a value of Matti’s words and I am aware that others need this input as well. So, I decide to publish his advices, after asking him if he allows me to do so, and he accepted 🙂
Just remember, the email was written when my focus was complete unfocussed. In other words, I knew my research was on games, culture, technology, education, inclusion, nature, …… So if you put yourself in my situation in 2006, the email will make even more sense. Also it is the proof that if I am learning this, then anyone else can do it as well 🙂
Carolina, some tricks for literature search -- I seriously suggest that you save this email because I'm not going to write the same things a second time. This is called "literature search" and I assume you haven't done it yet. 1. Find out who the *authorities* are in your (broad) field. This you'll achieve by browsing through a lot of articles that are similar to what you're gonna do, and paying special attention to the references. You'll soon find out who's everybody referring to. See if people are agreeing with the authorities or disagreeing with them. You'll need to show that you've read the classics. For instance, Johannes told that a classic work on educational games is Malone, T.W. 1981. Toward a theory of intrinsically motivating instruction. Cognitive Science, 4:333-369. Unfortunately, no-one has actually seen the article, but hey! after a little bit of browsing and searching you'll find that it's reprinted in Decker F. Walker, Robert D. Hess, eds., 1984. Instructional software : principles and perspectives for design and use which is available at our library. I'm sure that you'll bump many enough times to Hofstede's work that you'll need to read Cultures and Organizations. I've got a copy if you can't get one from the library (however, as some people have ruined already two of my books (red wine; juice), I'm not that eager to borrow books anymore). The point is: You'll need to do this kind of a classic-finding A LOT. What I do nowadays when I need to quickly get myself acquainted with a new topic, I first search the Internet e-library databases for JOURNAL articles that deal with the topic, and then I go and spend some days in the library. Books are your best friend in this task. About literature: USE A LOT: books and refereed journals with page numbers. USE SPARINGLY: refereed e-journals (no pg. numbers), conf. proceedings USE WITH EXTREME CAUTION: stuff that you've found in the net but the origin of which you can't point out, or the origin of which is not academical. I wouldn't recommend ANY of this stuff. However, you can use web sites as your _source material_ (which is the stuff you make your analysis about). But you can't use web sites as your _literature_ (which is the theoretical-conceptual basis of your work). 2. Find out the main viewpoints (*schools*) to the topic. This you'll find out by reading studies, paying attention to viewpoints. People sharing same ideas about research usually approach the questions from the same angle and use the same reference material. You can call them 'schools' if you like. At some point you'll need to decide which school you'll side with. You can't please 'em all. There's no inherently "best" school, ever. The schools exist exactly because of that. Some schools emphasize different things than others. 3. Find out what is the critique that other schools have against each other. Find also out the latest debate about the choice of schools. For instance, if you choose to join the quantitative-statistical cross-cultural research tradition, then you'll need to know the critique of it. Find out also the current discussion and debate within the tradition. At your field it's important to show that you know what's going on. 4. The Point of Literature Saturation At some point, you'll find out that your references are increasingly pointing at stuff you've already read. When you're at the point where you can determine the article's viewpoint by looking at the reference list, you must stop reading. Then you're ready. And the most important thing: 5. START YOUR LITERATURE SEARCH NOW Save every pdf you read. For each book you read, make sure you write down the complete reference (name, year, edition, publisher, address, complete name of the author, the page numbers you quote). I CANNOT emphasize this enough, yet this is something that everyone has to learn the hard way. It is totally frustrating to have to find out all your references second time because the editor of some journal wants to have more comprehensive reference information than those that you wrote down. --matti
Thank you Matti for your advice on time some years ago!
And, in my personal opinion, the literature search is an activity done beyond research. In other words is is also relevant in business and industry. One has to learn to search, get a habit of reading and find proper evidence to sustain one’s arguments!
Other books for learning literature review will be posted in this page.