In his 2021 audiocast addressing questions from the MALAT program cohort, George Veletsianos offered some valuable advice on conducting literature reviews. The tips offered in the audiocast break up a seemingly daunting task into a manageable process.
Veletsianos addresses the first step of the process, starting narrowly with the research question and slowly broadening the scope of research from there. I found this especially useful as it gives a starting point to the literature review, allowing it to build organically. This point also confirms what we studied earlier in this course (LRNT 522) the importance of developing a ‘good’ research question.
The second piece of advice I found helpful was Veletsianos suggestion to reframe the term ‘literature review’ to ‘a review of the relevant literature’. For me, this takes away the overwhelming feeling that the researcher must include any and all literature about the topic. Given this advice, I feel more confident and even a little excited about taking on a literature review as part of my research journey.
Veletsianos, G. (2021, August 11). Personal interview. [Personal interview]
What makes a good research question?
- A good research question does not allow for a simple yes or no answer, nor can it be answered by a single resource or piece of data (Dean, 2011).
For example: What is the grade twelve completion rate for students in Alberta? Or, does Alberta have higher high school dropout rates than British Columbia? These questions are not good research questions as they can simply be answered by a single piece of data or a yes or no answer based on existing data.
- A good research question is specific, not too broad or too narrow (Dean, 2011).
For example: “How does social media affect teens?” This question is too broad and would prove difficult to focus research, also it is too ambiguous to present clear findings. In contrast, “How does Snapchat use affect the females in ABC School’s grade six class?”, is a question that may be too specific to gather significant results and too specific to generate outside interest in the study findings.
The research question can heavily influence a research study. A poorly written research question poses several risks to a research study (Thabane et al., 2009). Therefore, it is vital to the success of the study that adequate time and effort is spent developing a good research question that is clear, relevant, and informed.
Dean, G. (2011, January 18). Problem Statements and Research Questions. [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1yJEOtLsb8
Thabane, L., Thomas, T., Ye, C. et al. Posing the research question: not so simple. Can J Anesth/J Can Anesth 56, 71 (2009). https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1007/s12630-008-9007-4