Literature review is a very important part of any research as it establishes the context of any research, connects it to the existing knowledge, and therefore shows the depth of a research paper. In this post, I would like to talk about my personal process of working on literature review part.
Let me start with reminding the topic of my thesis project which is “Examining inclusive education policies and infrastructure in schools of Astana”. The scope of my study will include mainstream schools as well as inclusive schools where I will investigate inclusive education policies, their nature, content and common patterns. Another goal of my research project would be to reveal how well schools in Astana are equipped to maintain inclusive education.
Overall, I feel confident about the content of my literature review, that is to say, what subtopics to include and how to organize them. Now, the draft of my literature review is on the stage of general editing process where I work on connecting ideas and sentences to make them more cohesive, and on improving an overall structure of the draft.
Following the targets of my research work, I considered to divide the literature review part into two major sections. First section touches upon the issues of inclusive policies, specifically, I talk about the importance of inclusive policies, how policy relates to practice and creating inclusive schools, and research done about inclusive school policies in other parts of the world. Second section is more brief, and includes the role of infrastructure and how effective inclusive schools look like in terms of physical resources.
The process of finding relevant resources might seem the most challenging when writing literature review. At least for me, it was difficult to find exactly what I needed when I finally reached the point when I was confident I would never find anything. However, it appeared to be so only in the beginning, and as the process went on, I could not stop from saving one more “useful” article. So, how did I manage to do that? Firstly, I changed usual searching systems to our library’s electronic resources. Secondly, I always start from broader topics. Considering my topic, I might start from searching just an “inclusive policy” or “inclusive infrastructure”. Thirdly, I narrowed my key words eliminating articles and prepositions. For example, instead of searching “the importance of inclusive school policies” it is better just to write “inclusive policies importance”. Finally, I tried to use various combinations of word phrases meaning the same thing. Sometimes new relevant articles appeared when I searched “role inclusive policy” instead of “importance inclusive policy” or “inclusion school building” instead of “inclusive school infrastructure”.
Next step after I had enough materials was to read, summarize, analyze, evaluate and synthesize all the sources to come to certain conclusions and make your own suggestions. Here, I usually create a simple table where I briefly write all the information about each article: name, author/s, date, aim of research paper, methodology, results in bullet points. This kind of summary of each article in a table is more convenient for me to structure my ideas, to analyze, look through the information and compare between sources rather than making a summary as a text.
To conclude, I would like to share few examples of research works which highly influenced my own research project. This is the work of Garrick Duhaney where he makes a deep analysis of the content of inclusive policies of 50 state educational agencies in the USA. Apart from this, the paper talks about a policy itself as a tool in changing a system, its importance and drawbacks. I also appreciate the work of Mcallister and Hadjri who highlighted the role of a school infrastructure when placing children with special educational needs into mainstream settings. I also liked that the authors indicated four-stage approach for an adequate evaluation of an environment for better inclusion.
Garrick Duhaney, L. M. (1999). A content analysis of state education agencies’ policies/position statements on inclusion. Remedial and Special Education, 20(6), 367-378.
McAllister, K., & Hadjri, K. (2013). Inclusion and the special educational needs (SEN) resource base in mainstream schools: physical factors to maximise effectiveness. Support for Learning, 28(2), 57-65.