Literature Review

Losing the -ly

I have a deadline of 30 April for this chapter to my supervisors and it’s been problematic. I have had the basics of this chapter for about three years but trying to put it together in a way that made sense proved more than I could handle. And then as always happens when you play with words for long enough – the breakthrough.

I’m not convinced this is going to survive contact with the supervisors as I’ve done something a bit brazen. However, for my way of thinking about the thesis and how it’s coming together with the data I actually think this is not a bad way to go.

I am suggesting my whole context chapter (literature review) is about setting university education up as a ‘good’ and universities as the business selling. I’ve ended up here because every time I tried to do a history section and then the funding section and then the policy section and so on, it all became a mess. Everything in university education is connected to everything else. Making university education the good to be bought and sold centred all the rest of the ideas and made the literature tell a story. I think it works – but only time will tell (and the proof reading which I’ve not done and we all know how wrong that can go).

I’ve also done something I’ve not done before with this chapter. I searched for words with -ly. I did this because one supervisor doesn’t like adverbs and -ly is the easiest way to find them as it is often at the end. Turns out I do use them a lot! Also turns out removing them tightens up the language no end and makes a stronger point. There are occasions where I’ve kept them for emphasis, but it turns out listening to supervisors is a good idea!

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Sharing the Literature

I attended a seminar last week organised by my faculty on literature review and approaches. It was quite interesting and a nice way to think about literature. The idea of drawing it in pictures and tables hadn’t really occurred to me before but Marjan shared her thesis work and I can see how it was useful for her. She was able to pictorially show her literature:

And I got a bit excited. I thought I might be able to do something similar as I’ve done this type of mapping for myself but hadn’t thought to include in my thesis. She also used tables to show how she’d analysed the literature in relation to how different literature defines concepts differently and how she chose to adopt her definitions. Again I think this could be useful for me as I too am using definitions. Although I’m thinking a table format might detract from my narrative approach to the whole discourse concept. I see my thesis as being an embodiment of the concepts themselves. If I’m positioning my thesis to argue language is important and how we use it impacts the perceptions we create, by using tables in place of prose I alter my own meaning. But then again I could be modelling clarity of communication through tables in a way people hadn’t previously considered. This would perhaps make my thesis a model of good practice for education communication. But then again am I sending the message prose is too hard and inaccessible in today’s world? Or am I recognising in this Information Revolution we are in, that language should be presented in many forms to increase its value to others? Hmmm….obviously a good seminar as it got me thinking!

Also of interest in the seminar was the issues people were having with their own literature reviews. Insights into the struggles of others enables me to understand and  contextualise my own approaches. I’m starting to see why working around other HDR students would be useful. Maybe  I need to be more sociable and talk to people.