Literature Review Struggles!

posted
14-Mar-17, 15:56
Avatar for jennypenny
posted about 1 month ago
Hi everyone!
In 1st year of PhD after doing my MRes (it's 1+3 programme). I am massively struggling to write my literature review. I know it won't be my final thesis worthy draft but even so, I can't seem to come up with an angle or a structure that I'm happy with. Any advice on how you all went about this?

More details: I'm doing a multi-disciplinary PhD. I'm registered in the Town Planning school but based in a Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) lab. This means there's a fundamental clash of approaches between a traditional social science PhD where they (roughly) do a lit and methods in Y1, fieldwork in Y2, write up in Y3 and the way the lab does it which is fieldwork throughout so 3 case studies make up your PhD.
I have a supervisor from each area and that's what's making things extra tricky. I have regular supervisions (every 2-3 weeks) and have spoke to both my supervisors recently and have been very honest about my struggles with this. But I don't feel any better about it. Both my supervisors have different approaches and different understandings of what I'm doing. I feel like piggy in the middle even though it's my PhD!
I've read a lot, have a paper published and have enough to start writing but structuring it has got me stressed out!

Any advice would be much appreciated and may even stop my headaches!!
posted
14-Mar-17, 19:12
Avatar for timefortea
posted about 1 month ago
My advice would be just to get writing. My first literature review had just about nothing in common with what I finally used, but it was only through writing and thinking about it that I managed to get to the final version.
posted
15-Mar-17, 11:28
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 month ago
Yeh just write, treat it as a tick box.
posted
20-Mar-17, 19:53
edited about 1 minute later
by Fled
Avatar for Fled
posted about 1 month ago
Like everyone said just swing through it man. I would also say, if its interdisciplinary, just attack it one sub discipline at a time and then see where they intersect. You will probably find (like I did) that 2 disciplines have more in common than with the third "distant cousin" body of literature. So you can just park that to the side when it becomes "useless" or you just use a paragraph to cite en-passant that you are aware of that body of literature, but it is not relevant to your research question.

Find your sweetspot, and then pay attention to the authors that keep popping up who have written about it. Check out their google scholar or research gate profiles and see what else they have written, and then look through the related articles by other authors. It is out there, you just have to find it. Good luck man.
posted
20-Mar-17, 20:40
edited about 4 minutes later
by Pjlu 4 star member
Avatar for Pjlu
posted about 1 month ago
Hi Jenny Penny, sorry I was writing something but on a quick reread of your question thought my response was to what I thought you said and not what you did actually ask-so I have deleted my first response. I am a big fan of conceptual mapping to help organise my thinking, and using ranking and rating to help me with maps, but not sure whether this will be helpful for the situation you are in.
posted
22-Mar-17, 16:28
by matt123
Avatar for matt123
posted about 1 month ago
My advice would be to make a draft plan. Specifically, write a skeleton contents page, which contains all of the sections, and subsections that are important. Essentially, it's like writing the contents page before the lit review but in this way you will quickly establish some kind of structure. Then write under the various heading s and you will quickly see it coming together.

My background is in Life Sciences so I am not so familiar with social sciences sorry, but I can sympathise having had two supervisors from two very different fields! I had two completely different areas to talk about that had to merge. I made a few suggestions on some of the crossovers and this became my PhD project. An interdisciplinary approach is a good thing especially concerning publications. I hope that helps :-)
posted
23-Mar-17, 23:22
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 month ago
Quote From matt123:
My advice would be to make a draft plan. Specifically, write a skeleton contents page, which contains all of the sections, and subsections that are important. Essentially, it's like writing the contents page before the lit review but in this way you will quickly establish some kind of structure. Then write under the various heading s and you will quickly see it coming together.

My background is in Life Sciences so I am not so familiar with social sciences sorry, but I can sympathise having had two supervisors from two very different fields! I had two completely different areas to talk about that had to merge. I made a few suggestions on some of the crossovers and this became my PhD project. An interdisciplinary approach is a good thing especially concerning publications. I hope that helps :-)


That's brilliant advice and it's exactly what I did as well.
Cannot imagine trying to do it any other way.
It allowed me to split my thesis intro into a series of 3 page blitzes per mini topic and allowed me to easily structurally knit them into a sensible overall story.
Mine was in Theoretical Chemistry but I suspect all sciences will be easy to breakdown this way.

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