Monthly Archives: September 2015

Almost ‘total’ dependence on literature review

No one can deny that the part of literature review in thesis plays a key part. I have been experiencing this work on literature review and I comprehend that success of my whole work depends on the right analysis of appropriate resources.

In the beginning with the help of system of key words I found several works on my topic about the entrance examinations to university and I was trying to find the relevant approach to classify the articles. After our sessions on Research methods conducted by our brilliant professors last year, I realized how to systematize the articles. In addition, course on English for professional purposes facilitated the correct selection of credible sources. In the end I chose only 6-7 reliable articles applicable and related to my topic.

Moreover, as I work with CT (Complex Test) exam, the kind of entrance exam to university, and its challenges with the implementation, I decided to consider exams of the former Soviet Union countries. On Kazakhstani level I faced the challenge with the significant gap in literature. I had expected to meet this difficulty before as CT is the one of the newest exams (it was launched only in 2012). Nevertheless, I wanted to follow my desire and made a lot of effort and spend enough time to investigate this theme. With different colors of markers I analyzed the works and authors’ conclusions about the main factors that influence on successful/unsuccessful students’ exam performance and completed the table that was very useful as visually it shows in short the main ideas of each work. And finally, fortunately, I could distinguish some opinions of foreign researchers about CT exam and in the list of references I found some articles about the CT exam and it was luck! After that the next step was to choose the necessary parts and paraphrase. This part work was achievable from the acquired knowledge on the aforementioned courses where I learnt how to use connected resources, how to cite and paraphrase using APA style.

However, on the previous session of Thesis seminar, I decided to change a bit the content and include my work experience in organizing the additional courses for students who prepare for CT exam in private education centre in Astana. With the aid of my supervisor I added the work on role of private sector. As a result, now I am in process of, firstly, stating the correct research questions and, secondly, looking for resources about private sphere and how it affects the students’ achievement. My supervisor gave me some advice how to organize my thoughts and not to deviate from my topic.

To conclude with, I can say that the more I study my topic on CT exam the more aspiration I get and it is good, on the other hand I must understand that all my thesis is being built on the basis of proper structure of literature review.

Building links – Literature Review

I believe on essential significance of reviewing previous literature in the filed of study. Significance of literature review is crucial, because this relies on experience and findings of previous studies, so the researchers do not have to invent something from scratch. I assume that it is possible to draw parallel between literature review and building on experience, which happens naturally in human development. For instance, there is no need to invent a new formatting style, like APA, but to develop it if necessary.

Development of proper literature review requires a systematic approach, but I believe that literature review demonstrates individual perception of a researcher, so it is possible to argue the existence of one suitable method for everyone. Nevertheless, here I discuss some strategies, which I personally find useful. In order to organize main themes in my review, I enumerate resources according to key words and separate into groups, so I can concentrate on specific books or articles. I separate my resources into parts, as my thesis topic investigates a problem, where different educational aspects intersect. However, generally it is problematic to indicate intersection points, because various studies concentrate on different aspects, which do not intersect to the point of my study. Unfortunately, indicating intersection point is not the only challenge in reviewing literature.

Finding appropriate resources for literature review is a common challenge for many master students. However, this make a problem until a researcher finds one appropriate resource. As soon as one good article is found, this makes the task simpler, as references from the article could be used. The answer to a good article is beyond the scope of this blog. There are also issues, which to some extend, challenge researchers: language barrier, difficulty in finding relevant articles to Kazakhstani context, deductive skills of a researcher, time etc.

Time is the most important resource for off-campus online master students in thesis writing. Recently, I have changed my job, and suffering from adaptation period that I cannot spend sufficient time on studies.

To sum up, literature review requires individual approach for every person. Regarding the individualism every student faces different problems to various extend. Apparently, time-management is the most valuable resource for master students.

Writing a Literature Review

Since the time when I failed at writing part of literature review, some time passed. Looking back that time I came to the next points. First, literature review is not a descriptive list of relevant materials. It is a set of literature read, evaluated, and analyzed in advance so as to formulate an answer to a reserach question. Second, the purpose of this part is not to prove the existance of the issue, it is to identify to what extent this issue has been studied before and what gaps exist at current time. Third, all reading materials should be credible and reliable. And, fourth, this part should be easy to follow and comprehensible for readers to get first understanding of what the nature of research is.

Regarding to what is happening with my literature review now, I think I have already framed my research question and it sounds like ” What are the parents’ understanding about their role in their children’s academic development?”. Now, I have passed to the next stage that is searching relevant literature. I quite well understand I need to read a large volume of material but at current time it covers only 7 articles. While reading these materials I mostly face with the following challenges as inconsistencies of  style, research techniques, and lack of time. After reading only these seven reliable sources I have identified that my research area has been investigated before but from another angles.Outlining gaps in the literature, I will illustrate other researchers’ findings in terms of time, location, and experience. However, I guess I will face with some difficulties my group mates outlined in thier writings. For instance: identification of  another appropriate resources, existing gaps in literature in the context of Kazakhstan, and some misunderstandings concerning to writing a literature review.

In overall, literature review is a step by step work that requires great responsibility, time, and researching skills.

Literature review my First love… (Part IV)

Barbara Smith First Love in Literature

In this post I would like to share my experience of writing literature review. Last year, I was fully introduced to the concept of literature review and I was really ‘falling in love’ with this section of research. In order to understand my own research topic I found some sources which showed me the meaning of my topic. During the process of long night reading and surfing the internet I noticed that I had started to get more deeply involved the process of research. Without a doubt it was an amazing feeling because before I even did not imagine that different literatures could create a miracle of combining all these sources which finally yield a product referred to as a research.

The topic of my research is a Principal’s leadership, where the main focus of the study is teachers` perception of their Principal’s skills at school. There are some challenges that any ordinary students faces during the collection of literatures. It could seem to be biased but it is indeed difficult to find researches which have been conducted in Kazakhstan. I do not know the reasons why there is a lack of research in Kazakhstani context but that are a fact. That is why I needed a lot of time to find appropriate sources which relates to my research, especially research in Kazakhstan. Fortunately, I have found literatures from different countries such as the United States of America, China, Canada, Brazil, and England. Now I am in the process of reading, highlighting and understanding what different authors have sought to explain in their researches.

Personally, I always try to make any process of writing into some kind of game, whereby I need to win the ‘dark side’. For me, the most interesting part is has always been preparation and writing process rather than the final product. That has been my small secret of how to deal with different tasks. Consequently, I use this kind of approach to encourage my own students in the learning process and without a doubt I can say that my students are quite involved in my classes.

In conclusion, it is possible to say that the literature review play significant role in any research. I have recognized that without literature review it is impossible to have in-depth understanding of your thesis. Moreover, the process of reading and then writing main point from the literature need huge amount of time which I absolutely have not really had. The solution is to stay focused in and take control of your personal time and manage your daily life regime. It is only through this way I have tried to do my best. Thank you!

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Surviving the Literature Review

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As a second-year graduate student I am on my way to writing a literature review for my thesis where I have to demonstrate not only a mastery of existing knowledge and research as I used to do in my undergraduate years but move towards creating and building new knowledge. This is what I understood last year from my professors` constructive feedback, thank God, only upon submitting my first draft. I understood what literature review is in reality, that it is more than listing or summarizing the studies that have preceded my research area and what it does require from us to do.

So now I am on my way of pointing out overall trends in what has been done or published about my topic. Specifically, since there is a great number of contradictory studies concerning the effect of class size on student`s academic achievement and a lack of widespread agreement on the definition of small classes, I began my literature review with comparing and contrasting different authors’ views on this issue, also grouping scholars who draw similar conclusions like reviewing arguments for and against the benefits of small class sizes and its relationship to academic achievement along with giving what class size does constitute.

However, before reaching the aforementioned stage I, first of all, needed to define my position, in other words my argument for the research and the organization of the review. In order to build such arguments for or against I had to assess and read the appropriate scholarship and delineate its strengths and weaknesses in relation to my research field and find similarities or differences in their content and put all the pieces into one picture, pointing out what is clear or what is missing in those studies then identify the goal of the research as “filling the gaps”. Only after that I was able to explain how my study would be built on the work of other academics and fill the research gaps in the local context.

As for the challenges in finding relevant resources, I hope not to find anything of the sort. Nonetheless, there is one issue which does not leave me alone and concerns me most, is the right way of demonstrating my literature review, since our writing skills most of the time lacks synthesis and similar, unfortunately, to the list-like writing or summary writing.

Literature review

Literature review is an essential part of any research work. The main aim of literature review section within a research work is to link notions and concepts from previous secondary sources which have been done earlier to one’s own research. Due to this section readers of research papers get thorough introduction of the topic you investigate. However, conducting literature review is not so easy as it may sound at first thought. It is a complicated process which requires a lot searching, a lot reading, note-taking, organizing…and only then writing! In this blog below I will share my own experience about writing literature review which might be useful for my readers.

The theme of my master’s thesis is “The role of mentor in teacher induction period”. I have chosen this topic because when I started to work two years ago I faced many challenges starting from classroom management to various bureaucratic works. Therefore, the purpose of my study is to explore the effectiveness of mentorship relationships in addressing the beginning teachers’ challenges in their induction period. Unlike the majority of my group-mates who complain about the lack of related materials, I have found enough scholarly scientific articles on my topic. I have already started to combine the articles into a literature table which was shown by our teachers last year. I could assure that I have not faced big challenges in writing literature review section. However, this is only the beginning, let’s see…)))

I assume that the reason why students often seem overwhelmed even before starting to do something is because they do not actually know how to start and where to start). The right way to start, to my mind, is to refer primarily to reputable articles in extensive databases such as ERIC, EBSCO, and JSTOR which include dozens of journal articles, dissertations and links to full texts of articles. Another recommendation I would give is to create a folder on the desktop somewhere in the center, name it by CAPITAL letters and download all related materials there; afterwards to fulfill the literature table with necessary information. Another valuable suggestion would be is to look at the reference list of the articles as they could refer to other reputable articles.

Wish good luck to everyone!

My tips for writing literature review

Writing literature review is one of the most challenging things in thesis writing for me. You should be able to give background information about your research topic, support problem statement and explore main ideas of your study. All of this needs to be done in a clear, coherent and logical way so that your reader won’t be distracted from your thoughts. And this in turn, requires thorough planning and hard thinking from the writer.

Usually I start with planning my literature review where I divide this part into several chapters according to the main ideas. In order to find relevant articles I distinguish the key words and terminology first. Then I start searching articles by means of search engines as Google Scholar, or databases like EBSCO, Jstor, ERIC etc. It is important to note that key words are really helpful when using different databases.

In my opinion, there are two main challenges with finding resources. First, it is remarkable that many students struggle with finding relevant and reliable sources. There is a lack of scientific articles in some areas of study that may hinder research process. In this case, I try to use synonyms of key terminology when searching or refer to the reference list of the articles I found earlier. Secondly, you may face abundance of literature on your topic that makes difficult to chose few of them. I would recommend to refer to the most cited ones or to choose the articles that are very close to yours. Unfortunately, I often experience scarcity of materials in Kazakhstani context.

After finding appropriate resources, I start reading them and highlight the information that I may use in my thesis. Here, I use the trick with colours. I identify specific colours for each of my main themes and when reading the article I highlight the paragraphs or quotations with these colours. At the same time, I put authors’ names next to the piece of information I use so that I’ll be able not to forget and cite them properly.

The next step is combining all the information into one section by paraphrasing, deleting unnecessary parts and spice it all up by adding linking words and phrases. In this stage I pay attention to the coherence of my ideas and logical flow. Of course, my initial outline of literature review may change several times while reading more and more articles. But this is what makes your literature review delicious and easy to read.

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There is always something you can improve and update! This is literature review.

The first time I heard about a research was at the Inquiry methods session. After primary skimming and further scanning of Creswell I came to conclusion that a research process cycle consists of six main steps (Creswell, 2012). Personally, I was expecting that the part of collecting data with its following analysis and interpretation would be the hardest and most challenging element of my research on the impact of using mother tongue in EFL classes. Now I believe that it is going to be the most exciting and captivating piece of my study.

Whereas, the most boring and time-consuming part I have faced is the part of reviewing the literature which I first thought was the easiest and minor component in my study. ‘This is no big deal’, I was thinking and I was wrong. Why? Because instead of reading two or three articles related to my topic I had to read about twenty and I still need to keep on working on it; and instead of grasping information from different or secondary sources I had to focus on primary ones and look for scholarly literature vs. non-scholarly literature as well. Also, at the time I was not even aware of Google Scholar or any other useful academic library databases but I mistakenly assumed that was the only tool for searching any literature I wanted. The only thing I managed to do write was identifying proper key words for my research. I chose the most important words in the title, which represented key concepts of the study, and they were ‘mother tongue’, ‘EFL classroom’, ‘L1 use/L2 use’, ‘language acquisition’. Then, I used Boolean operator, which I had not been aware of before the session, and it proposed me different articles which I started to select, read, and analyze. However, this work is still in progress and requires more time and mental efforts.

Fortunately, this work of writing a thesis, drafts has been under regular control of our professors and tutors. I have received many different comments already how my piece of work could be updated though this critique sometimes offends. Recently I have received the vital literature review chapter draft guide and I am going to change, review, and rewrite my current literature review section with the requirements of the above document as it is a better and more logical way to do it.


Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research, 4th ed. Boston: Pearson.

My long way to literature review…

My main theme is perceptions of formative assessment in Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools in Kazakhstan. Searching for close literature I defined the main themes: raising effectiveness of formative assessment in the classroom, understanding perceptions of teachers and students and implementation of formative assessment in experimental schools in Kazakhstan.

One of the main challenges for me is that while I was looking for the “right” literature, I faced with great deal of academic papers which looked like “almost fine” for my  research question. Reading them carefully I realized how far majority of them from my main interest.  Now I know the only thing:  the more you read, the deeper you start understanding your research questions from inside.  

Searching for suitable scholar papers for my research questions, as I am interested in perceptions of formative assessment by teachers is quite difficult. In most of articles I found the main concepts are the importance and effectiveness of formative assessment in science and math, whereas my main concern is English language field, even I changed  the key words according to our supervisor’s recommendation, I was not so lucky to find good literature about formative assessment of English teaching environment as a second language in other countries, but  I was lucky as one of my groupmates,  Guldana Tazhimbetova  advised me  to study Dylan Wiliam’s research, as he is one of the main experts in the issue of formative assessment for many years. Concerning the main audience, most of the research has been done in higher education and in primary schools all around the world. The main problem there has been no research conducted in Kazakhstan, as it is one of the new education reforms in the chain of NI Schools. The lack of resources highlights the necessity and importance of formative assessment in the context of experimental schools in Kazakhstan.

To be honest, I am still in the process of reading and analyzing 17 articles I chose from 52 for writing my literature review. I have just started organizing my lit review table and concept map, as well as I am trying to connect it with my research questions which   I mentioned above. With each reading I am getting more inspired  and enthusiastic to start writing my literature review, keeping in mind, that it is a non-stop continuous cycle process in thesis writing.

My literature review journey

Literature review is the most challenging and utmost part of research work to my mind.I tend to think that ultimate success or failure of any research study directly depends on reviewing various kinds of scientific and research papers related to target topic. Since last year Literature review became an inseparable part of my academic life. I have been having a long journey with a huge amount of research papers.I simultaneously experience difficulties in this journey and benefit a lot from exploring novelties.respectively I made a conclusion of my current track.
On the one hand, Literature review in research writing needs a lot of effort to make. The most difficult thing of this very part of research paper is time issue. It is quite time-consuming work to deal with and get the relevant point for your topic. Personally, being a freshman in research field during my first year of Master’s program I read all literature mentioning the key words of my research paper recklessly. Thus I lost my time, patience and desire to study since it was very confusing and tiring. Besides, to find a source agreement is another trouble concerned Literature review. If one author demonstrates very essential finding and novelty, you become enthusiastic to find another source to support that report. However it is not always possible to find the source sharing the same claim. Again much time is needed to search for relevant paper.
On the other hand, Literature review is greatly aiding me in my research writing process. First of all, it helps me to scrutiny my study topic from different perspectives and find sources illustrating outstanding findings and conclusions. Reviewing diverse resources enables me to enhance my knowledge and find a right track. Literature review made me once change my way of researching my topic and change research questions entirely. I caught a focus on specific theme and my research about teachers’ challenges in CLIL was going systematically then. In addition, reviewing different literature I became aware of different challenges which CLIL teachers face in classrooms. Consequently, I divided my Literature review part into subtopics according to challenges. Moreover through reading research papers I taught me to correct style of writing academic papers and enlarged my Vocabulary. Daily review of books, articles and research works is also broadening my outlook as well as moving forward.As to my stage of doing literature review I am just taking up it since recently I have changed my topic.