I’m in the final stages of completing my literature review (basically an analysis and appraisal of everything written so far on the subject you’re planning on researching) and I’ve been reflecting on how I have got to this point.
Firstly and most obviously is the grind of reading as much as you can. The echoes of “there’s no substitute for hard work” delivered to me by parents and grandparents have never rung more true. It has been fun though, even when reading material that I’m fairly sure I’ll never be going back to! There is an incident though that helped enormously in formulating the piece of work I’m now completing. I cannot attribute the incident to anything other than luck.
It was quite early on in the semester when my ideas were quite nebulous. I’d read a reasonable amount of material but I was struggling to get any purchase on my subject. It was at that point that I happened across an academic in distress. One of the “features” of working at the same place that you study, as I do, is that people can take advantage of your presence in one capacity to ask a question about what you do in your other capacity. In my case it sometimes feels like I have to barter academic questions for IT answers at times. This was just such a case.
As I sat there, fiddling with some misbehaving piece of software, we got chatting about where my research was going.
“Oh,” says the academic, “I’ve just finished reading this book that has a lot to say on that subject – it was only published last year so it’s very current.”
The book I was introduced to was the clarity I had been looking for and was a huge step forward in formulating my ideas. Now I’m fairly certain I would have found it at some point through a diligent search and hard work but that bit of luck at the right moment saved me quite a bit of time and a little sanity.