The Research Proposal and

Literature Reviews
Creswell Chapter 2
O’Leary Chapter 3

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Game Plan: Step One,
• Reading for research is
essential: It is impossible
for researchers to work
towards the production of
new knowledge if they
don’t have a good handle
on the current state of

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Step Two: Develop your
methodological design
• How you will move from
questions to answers, how
you will collect your data,
how you will analyze your

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Step Three: Write your
plan; also known as the
research proposal.
• In the proposal: you must
articulate 1) what you are
trying to find out 2)why
finding out is
important/significant, and
3)how you plan to find it

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Reading for Research:
• You can’t engage in
research from a platform
of ignorance.
• Even rich experience is
anecdotal if not grounded
in a broader context, that
is where reading comes

O’Leary Chapter Three
• The purpose of Reading
• Focus your ideas and expand
relevant background
• Develop appropriate questions
• Argue the relevance of your
• Inform your thinking/approach
with theory

O’Leary Chapter Three
• The purpose of Reading
• Design suitable methods

– Support learning related to
relevant methodologies/methods
– Allow you to critically evaluate,
and possibly adopt, methods
considered ‘standard’ for your
research question
– Help you in assessing the need
for alternative methodological
– Support you in the design of a
study that might overcome
methodological shortcomings
prevalent in the literature

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Purpose of reading
• Construct and write a
literature review
– A thorough and critical
review of past research
studies conducted on your
topic and/or similar topics is
often a criterion of
fundable/rigorous research

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Types of Literature

– Discipline based reference materials
(dictionaries, encyclopedias in your field)
– Books: introductory/advanced texts,
anthologies, annuals, even fiction and nonfiction
– Journal articles: beyond background into
primary, cutting edge, ongoing research
– Grey literature: published and unpublished
materials without ISBN or ISSN numbers,
i.e., unpublished theses, conference
papers, newsarticles, pamphlets,
– Official publications, statistics and archives
– Writing aids: other reference works,
encyclopedias, thesaurases, dictionaries,
almanacs, yearbooks, books of quotes, etc.
can help a)improve style, b) add points of
interest to the text, c) check facts, d)
reference/cite those facts

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Finding your readings
– Calling on Experts
• College/university librarian
• Professors
• Professional experts in the field
and practitioners in the field

– Honing your search skills
• Internet: effective internet use
means running a reputable
search engine effectively using
key words, which means being
familiar with your topic,
subtopics, variables, theories,
theorists, methods, key concepts,
etc. in the form of key words

O’Leary Chapter Three




O’Leary Chapter Three
• Managing the Literature
– Assess the Relevance
• Review abstracts first
• Peruse tables of contents first, back
cover blurb, preface and intro.
• If necessary, first and last chapter

– Keep Track of Sources
• Design a system
• Use procite, endnote, reference
manager, other reference software,
use excel…

– Make Relevant Notes
• Annotate your references

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Notes to include while reading
– Author and audience

• Who is doing the writing?
• What are their qualifications?
• Who is the work written for?

– Summary

• Key points, passages, facts…

– Critical comment

• Capture your thoughts/questions
about the article
• Is this new, old, cutting edge, rehash?
• Flaws in methodology?
• Biases, limitations, boundaries?
• Validity, reliability, credibility?

– Notes on relevance

• How does this work relate to what you
want to do?

O’Leary Chapter Three
• The Literature Review
• The Purpose of a well-written
literature review

– Inform readers of developments in
the field
– Establish researcher credibility
through 1) rigorous and critical
evaluation of relevant research
works, 2) demonstrated
understanding of key issues; and
3)the ability to outline the
relationship of your own work to
that of the rest of the field
– Argue the need for and relevance
of your study, set your study
within the context of past research

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Before you write the literature
– Read some good reviews
– Decide on coverage
– Write critical annotations as you
go, searching for patterns and
arguments and noting them
when you find them
– Develop a structure: topical
themes, tasks you need lit review
to accomplish, arguments you
wish to make

O’Leary Chapter three
• Before you write the lit review
– Write purposefully: driven by
researcher and needs to have
and make a point
– Use the literature to support your
argument(s): don’t report, or
even borrow arguments from
others, generate and support
your own arguments
– Adopt an appropriate style and
tone: balance criticism and
– Be prepared to rewrite

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Designing Method
– The goal is to have your
approach either 1) answer
your well-articulated
research question or, 2) test
your skillfully constructed
– Is there only one path from
question to answer or many
– If many, how do you

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Methodology
– How can you make
decisions that will ensure
the most productive path,
credible data and
trustworthy results?
– Criteria to judge: Does your
methodological design
address your questions? Is
your design practical or

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Addressing the Question
– Your questions and design
must fit tightly even if both

O’Leary Chapter three
• Aims and Objectives: Get
broader methodological
approaches in line with aims
and objectives
– Understand a problem: (questions
about workplace stress p. 48)
– Finding workable solutions
– Working toward solutions:
research that goes beyond
production of knowledge into goal
of positive change
– Evaluating change

O’Leary Chapter Three
• From Question(s) to
– The goal in developing
method is working towards
what is most appropriate
for answering your question
(not what you would
methodologically prefer)

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Assessing Practicality
– Do you have/can you develop
necessary expertise?
– Is your method ethical? Can it
get IRB/ethics board approval?
– Do you have required access to
– Is your timeframe realistic?
– Do you have required
financial/organizational support?

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Details: The who, where,
when, how, and what of your
approach (visit table 3.1 p. 52)
– Can you over-design?
– Better to have very specific plan
with lots of flexibilities and
potential contingencies than to
be vague and uncertain…
– Must justify and elaborate on
uncertainties…through grounded
theory design and action
research design, and discuss how
you will deal with those issues.

O’Leary Chapter Three
• A Proposal is a sales
• Many times, when it
comes to grants or
funding…research is
• Convince powers that be
of three things…

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Your problem and question are worth
exploring…and worth funding:
Answer “so what?”
• That you are the right person/party
to conduct the research: demonstrate
your competence throughout
literature review and proposal
• That the methodology you are
proposing is logically and ethically

Does it make sense?
Is it practical?
Is it ethical?
Will it answer your question(s)?
Is it efficient?

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Weight on three elements
will vary depending on
approval committee
• Follow the approval
committee guidelines to
the tee…especially for
grant/funding proposals
• Write in future tense…

O’Leary Chapter Three
• Elements of Research Proposal

Summary/abstract (75-300 words)
Research Question/hypotheses
Literature review
Theoretical Perspectives
Ethical Considerations
See Box 3.1 pp. 55-58

Creswell Chapter Two
• The Literature Review
– Draft a working title as a
road sign in your research,
creates a tangible idea…
– To do so, answer the
following question, “My
study is about…”
– Keep title straightforward
and uncomplicated, easily
read and understood.
– Or, pose topic as brief

Creswell Chapter Two
• Should the topic be
– Can your study add
anything new to the
– Will anyone outside of your
immediate circle of
influence be interested in
the topic?
– Will it help you?

Creswell Chapter Two
• Purpose of the lit review
– Shares the results of other
studies that are closely related to
the study being reported
– Relates a study to larger ongoing
dialogue in the literature about a
topic, filling in gaps and
extending prior studies
– Provides a framework for
establishing the importance of
the study as well as a benchmark
for comparing the results of a
study with other findings

Creswell Chapter Two
• Qualitative Literature
Reviews: Use literature in a
manner consistent with
assumptions of learning
from the participants/texts
in the study and not from
prescribing hypotheses,
predictions or answers.
Qualitative studies are
inherently exploratory…

Creswell Chapter Two
• Qualitative Literature
Review continued: Often,
literature on relevant
theories or central
concepts will begin the
literature review as an
orienting framework.
• Three placements for
qualitative lit reviews…
table 2.1 p. 31

Creswell Chapter Two
• Quantitative Lit reviews:
literature usually begins
the study to introduce a
problem or describe in
detail the existing
literature and often
referred to briefly at end
in comparative

Creswell Chapter Two
• Forms of lit reviews
– Integrative: broad brush
stroke dissertation and
– Theoretical review: focus is
on theory
– Methodological review:
focus is on methods

Creswell Chapter Two
• Mixed Methods Reviews
– May be both inductive and
deductive depending on
design of phases and where
the focus of the research
questions are…also weight
of literature

Creswell Chapter Two
• Suggestions
– Be inductive in qualitative research…
– Base placement on your audience
and their preferences
– Use literature in quantitative study
deductively to set up your methods
and claims
– Generally, in quantitative research,
place lit at beginning
– If a separate lit review is used,
consider whether review will consist
of integrative summaries, theoretical
reviews, or methodological reviews
– In mixed methods reviews, use lit in
way consistent with strategy and
approach most emphasized in design.

Creswell Chapter Two
• Steps to successful
literature review
– Identify key words
– Go to library: begin with
catalog, focus on journals
and books, search
computerized academic
– Try to locate around 50
relevant sources. Prioritize
journals and books

Creswell Chapter Two
• Steps to lit review continued…

– Look at articles and photocopy those
that are central to topic, look over
abstract and skim article/chapter
– Design literature map, visual picture
of research literature on topic
– Draft summaries (in your own words)
of most relevant articles, precisely
cite articles according to appropriate
style (use software to help)
– Assemble lit review, structure
thematically or by important
concepts across articles/books and
your study.
– Summarize major themes found in
literature and press/funnel lit review
towards an argument in favor of your

Creswell Chapter Two
• Research Tools
• Use local and state catalog
systems I-share in Illinois
• In education, ERIC, CIJE and RIE
• Social Sciences Citation Index
• Dissertation Abstracts
• Sociological Abstracts
• Psychological
• In our field, ComAbstracts

Creswell Chapter Two
• At IC: EBSCO Host, LexisNexis, JSTOR
• Also, googlescholar, worldcat,
Project Muse, Ingenta, Alta
• If you are really “green” on a
topic, start with basic
references (not wikipedia) to
orient yourself, have a
librarian help you get started
with appropriate reference
and encyclopedic material

Creswell Chapter Two
• Next, turn to journal
articles in respected,
national journals that
report independent, blind,
peer reviewed studies.
Start with most recent
studies and work back in
time (hint: look at their
bibliographies to see who
they cite).

Creswell Chapter Two
• After journal articles, turn
to books, both entire books
written on subject as well
as edited anthologies
• Follow this up with recent
conference papers, for
communication, start with
NCA, then go to regional
conferences, WSCA, ECA,

Creswell Chapter Two
• Dissertations: Dissertation
Abstracts International
(through I-share),
ProQuest, University
• Notice the internet is not
really included here…
what to do with internet
research? How to

Creswell Chapter Two
• Literature Map
– Visual summary of the
research that has been
conducted by others
– Can be organized in a
hierarchical structure, a flow
chart, interlocking circles
– Build a visual picture of
existing research about a
topic, can be used in
proposal presentations later.
– Example, p. 40 figure 2.1

Creswell Chapter Two
• Write your own annotated
abstracts of the literature (so
you can learn it, get your own
assessment of it, and
remember it later)
– Mention problem being addressed
– State central purpose/focus of
– Briefly state info. About sample,
population, participants
– Review key results that relate to
the study
– Point out technical and
methodological flaws in the study.

Creswell Chapter Two
• If piece of literature is not
a research study abstract
following components:
– Problem/topic addressed by
– Central argument or theme
– Major conclusions related to
– Flaws in reasoning, logic,
force of argument, etc.

Creswell Chapter Two
• Style Manuals
– The Publication Manual of
the American Psychological
– The University of Chicago:
Manual of Style (a cheaper
version of this is the
Turabian Manual)
– The Manual of the Modern
Language Association

Creswell Chapter Two
• Try to stick with a method that
works best for your
field,unfortunately, in
communication, you will
encounter all three…but for
undergraduate, find one and
stick with it
• Be aware of how to write intext references, end-of-text
references, footnotes and
endnotes, headings, tables
and figures…do it as you

Creswell Chapter Two
• Literature Review has five basic
components in social science

– Introduction, topic (1,2,3) and a
– Introduce section
– Review topic one: independent
– Review topic two: dependent
– Review topic three: relate the
independent variable(s) to the
dependent variable(s)
– Provide a summary of the review that
highlight the most important studies,
captures the major themes in the
review and suggests why we need
more research, your research…

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