Keep your research topic narrow

Writing a literature review could be exhausting exercise for one’s brain since you have to go through lots of literature in order to find those that will fit in the context of your thesis. First, you need to be very focused, otherwise, you may enter to a labyrinth of research papers, which have little value for your research. It usually takes a lot of time and energy to organize and structure main ideas from these papers. Moreover, it would be difficult to identify essential researchers in the field of your research. Therefore, my advice is to narrow the topic of the research.

I would start the literature review with the definition of the research theme, including some history on the development of the theme. Then, I would describe the main contemporary research issues, which were put forward by prominent researchers. After that I would mainly find arguments that support or contradict my hypothesis of the research.

One of the most important things in finding resources for your research is to use the right keywords related to the research. This will keep your reference list limited. For instance, I am writing a research to study the pedagogy of teaching subjects, such as history or geography in the second language of instruction. Initially, I looked for “language immersion” but after reading piles of research papers on that topic, I realized that what immersion is not what I am looking for. Then, I searched for “second language acquisition”. This search was closer to my topic, however, it still was too broad for my purposes. Finally, I found that “CLIL” pedagogy is what I really need to explore for development of my research.

Some tips for finding literature are to look at the reference list of a research resource that you liked and you can search on the web for literature overviews that are usually provided by some universities on the particular topics.

At the moment, I am writing the methodology part of my thesis. I am struggling with developing a research design since it seems to be the hardest part of my research.

5 thoughts on “Keep your research topic narrow

  1. Dear Ruslan,
    thank you for sharing your experience with writing a literature review.
    After reading your post I became more confident in strategies that were chosen for completing the section of literature analysis.
    I should admit in my search the same ideas regarding CLIL were found. I also wanted to focus on second language acquisiton but now I am researching the opportunities of learning language and content simultaneously.
    As the task for this week is to challenge writing style of peers, I would recommend you to find the synonyms to the word “resarch”, but I am impressed by the power of your writing that in a few words you can convey the most important ideas using a nice structure.


  2. Dear Ruslan,

    thank you for your advice. I agree that reseach topic should be narrow enough to be doable and as a result it will make the process of writing literature review easier. In terms of using kew words while searching for sources, you may also use synonyms.
    I really like how you are going to organize your literature review. I am to start with the definition and some general information about PLCs in my literature review, too.
    You mentioned you haven’t decided what research design to use, so I wonder don’t you take into account research design while searching for literature? I myself found more qualitative studies related to my topic as I am going to do a qualitative research.


  3. Dear Ruslan,
    Thank you for this post.
    I really liked your practical tips and the procedure that you described. Special thanks for reminding us to keep the topic narrow and also for reminding us the old trick of looking at reference lists of papers covering your topic of interest – it really is a time saver.
    From your post I understood that you are conducting quantitative research and have encountered a few bumps with the research methodology. Could you please elaborate on that? I would be interested in hearing about your challenges and trying to help you.


  4. Dear Ruslan,

    Thanks a lot for your advice. Your advice does seem mostly targeted at writing anew. I found them very useful. Especially the one on narrowing the topic since last year the scope of my thesis was quite wide and I ended up wasting lots of time and effort into research area which has turned out not to be relevant to what I am writing about. So now I am trying my best to make up for the shortcomings in my thesis which exist due to lack of research and time.


  5. This is a great post, Ruslan. I hope you get a chance to respond to some of the great questions in the comments. Your writing is quite strong and focused on a central message that you elaborate with examples and experience. No major issues in grammar or sentence structure. Well done!



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