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Masters Level Module – Research Methods

Chapter 3

Conceptualisation and The Literature Review

Learning Outcomes
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Explain the principles of conceptual modelling and the


conceptualisation process.

2. Discuss the role of the conceptualisation process.

3. Outline the principles of reviewing academic literature.

4. Make a structured analysis of an academic paper.

5. Identify and deal with diverse opinions in research papers during the
literature review process by comparing and contrasting the evidence
for opposing academic viewpoints.

6. Distinguish between conceptualisation and the review of literature


and integrate the two activities.

7. Describe how the conceptual model and literature review relate to the
research process as a whole.

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3.1 Introduction
Conceptualisation is one of the distinguishing features of academic
research, central to its actual and perceived rigour. Comprehensive
conceptualisation of a research problem is fundamental to the sound
design of a research project. Without conceptualisation, it is not practical
to design a precise research project nor is it feasible to rigorously collect
data or analyse any findings. In this chapter, we define conceptualisation
in a research context and describe the conceptual model using an
illustrative metaphor. We also examine a methodology for reviewing
academic papers and show how the distinct activities of literature review
and conceptualisation can be integrated. Finally we look at the issues to
be considered when comparing literature, with particular emphasis on
handling contradictions.

3.2 Principles Of Conceptualisation


A thorough conceptual framework distinguishes a co-ordinated study
from a collection of random pieces of data and information. It is the
researcher’s role to create and describe this conceptual framework, or
conceptual model. The process involves an abstract intellectual
manipulation of information to produce knowledge.

In the first instance, the conceptual model is the logical ruleset by which
sense is made of the field information. Secondly, the conceptual model
may be a statement of possibilities, from which come the research
questions and their hypotheses. Later in the research process, the
conceptual model will provide the essential frame of reference for the
description and analysis of the findings, and a context within which the
researcher will set the meaning and/or application of the research as a
whole.

Conceptualisation is the process of transforming internal and external


information in the field into internal knowledge. The output of the
process is the conceptual model. The creation of the internal knowledge
which underpins a conceptual model involves assembling fragments of

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information into a coherent picture. The information must be placed


within a clear and consistent context, like creating a picture in the mind.
The metaphor of a picture can be used to expand on the requirements of a
conceptual model as follows:

Focus
The conceptual model of the proposed research issue has to be focused.
This is not to say the entire picture has to be focused, since different
levels of knowledge may produce different focal depths, variations in
detail and precision of representation. However, the area under
investigation must be focused,.

Completeness
Ideally, the knowledge should be complete in the sense of not having
holes in it; nor should it have overlaps or inconsistencies. Research does
not usually take place in ideal settings, hence it is normal for there to be
gaps, overlaps and inconsistencies in the picture. This is where the
opportunities for further research can be found.

Detail
The level of detail of the picture depends on the type of problem and the
level of field knowledge. Conceptual pictures of poorly defined research
fields could be considered metaphorically as sketches. In a well-defined
field there may be extreme detail. It is important that the researcher
achieves a level of detail and understanding which is compatible with the
field and appropriate for the research project.

Representation
The entire picture should be recognisable as a single picture. The frame
of reference for the picture is drawn by making boundaries around the
image. Unlike the convention of regular boundaries around a picture (the
picture frame), the researcher may set irregular boundaries or identify
patches of exclusion within the picture by making specific limiting
assumptions.

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Communication
Research is about communication, hence the concepts must be
communicable and be communicated. The key challenge for the
researcher is to preserve their picture as they translate it into writing for
the customer of the research.

This resultant ‘picture in the mind’ is the researcher’s conceptual model,


which is built upon the information gathered together from literature
review and internal information. Conceptual models are characterised by
the way researchers put them together (the way they see the world) and
capture their knowledge.

Conceptualisation is also about creating a clear conceptual framework for


the researcher’s theories and knowledge to reside in. The knowledge for
populating the conceptual model comes from internal and external
information which must be abstracted from the literature review.

Finally, the conceptual model serves as a statement of what the fragments


of information mean when assembled, and/or how they assemble. The
resultant conceptual model will therefore be unique to the researcher, and
probably unique to the time at which it was conceived.

PF3.1
How does the metaphor of a picture help to communicate the features of
a conceptual model? What kinds of purpose does such a model serve?

Activity
The picture in the mind analogy could probably be extended further, for
example by looking at more detailed issues such as what colour might
represent, say in terms of consistency of schools of thought or types of
data. Perhaps variations in richness across the entire picture, perspective
(2D or 3D?), would help with the analysis of the turbulent research field
with a variable quality of literature? Are there research issues analogous
to a moving picture, or jigsaws, or wide angle, portrait or
landscape/panoramic views on information which could be explored?
Would it be worth producing a meta-model, that is a model of how other
models fit together or producing images of how other pictures fit
together?

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Record your thoughts on what a conceptual model is. Use a metaphor


approach if it helps.

3.3 Reviewing Academic Papers

3.3.1 The Literature Review


The literature review supplies information for conceptualisation.
Conceptualisation transforms this information into knowledge. As we
saw in Chapter 2, one of the key purposes of the literature review is to
filter information which is irrelevant or not immediately useful from that
which is valuable for the core research or peripheral work. The other
main purpose of the literature review is to distil the meaning from a wide
collection of sources of information, using a consistent process which
allows the information to be compared and contrasted in a meaningful
manner. The principles of filtration and selection were discussed in
Chapter 2. Now it is time to consider the distillation function.

The exercise of transforming information into internal knowledge


involves collecting statements about your assumptions and thinking
process as well as abstracting the direct content of sources. With care, the
literature review process can be used to inform the design of the research.

To avoid the literature review phase of the project being just a collection,
filtration and re-emission of existing work, it is essential to have a plan
for the information needs. Literature reviews only really serve research
projects where they are used in direct support of the development of a
conceptualisation phase of the research. During conceptualisation of the
research issue, you integrate the experiences you bring to the research
with the information that your review of existing third party information
sources uncovers.

Hence it is worth putting some effort into establishing a system for


abstracting information from literature sources. This system may
comprise a definition of what your information needs are, together with a
procedural checklist which you use whenever you appraise an article.

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Properly designed, these can be used for the review of most forms of
academic paper.

3.3.2 A Research Methodology


The review of a paper should establish at least two key issues − the worth
of the paper in its own right, and the worth of the paper in connection
with your research project. The first issue can be dealt with in a
systematic way using a number of prescribed parameters, the second
requires a flexibility according to your perspective on the research.
Consider using some or all of the following suggested parameters. The
italicised comments are suggestions for evaluating the paper in
connection with your specific research project.

Title and Abstract


How well does the title and abstract correspond to the content of the
paper? Does the abstract relate well to the content of the paper? Should
any parts of the paper be expanded?

Does the paper suggest explicitly or by omission any novel areas of


research potential? Does the paper explicitly or implicitly identify any
areas of research which are exhausted, unworthwhile, or
unresearchable?

Main Points
Are the main points in the paper consistent and supported by evidence or
defensible conceptual founding?

Do you agree with them and do they support or contest your existing
concepts/ evidence?

Meaning
Is the meaning of the paper clear and realistic?

In what aspects is the meaning not clear, and is this because of a lack of
theory or evidence, or simply poor explanation or incomplete research?
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How can you address this in your research? What do you think the
meaning of the data should be?

Concepts
What is the underlying conceptual model and terms of reference which
the author has used for the study? Are the key concepts clearly
discussed?

Which other key conceptual models from the research field that you are
aware of are comparable? How do these other concepts compare, and
how do they contrast? Do you agree with the author’s conceptual model
and the implicit or explicit assumptions? Are the key variables identified
and their inter-relationships explicitly discussed and reasonable?
Explain your reasons and the significance of any differences of opinion.

Structure and Design


Is the paper well structured? Is the research process clearly stated and
logical? Is the emphasis placed upon the various aspects of the research
correct and consistent with the findings and their application?

What is the research design? Could a similar or carefully varied


structure be used for your research design? How does this approach
relate to the process conventions of the field?

Focus and Control


Is the research focused, or could elements of it have been excluded
without a significant loss of value or applicability? Is there a clearly-
stated research question and hypothesis or proposition? Are they testable,
and is the research as described an adequate test?

Is there adequate control of extraneous variables? Are the assumptions


valid and significant for the applicability or comparison of the research
with the remainder of the research in the field?

Data
Are you satisfied with the method of data collection?

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Is the methodology applicable to your research problem, is the data


collection approach transferable to your context? How does this
approach relate to the methodological conventions of the field?

Are you satisfied with the data quality and quantity? Are the data
appropriate for the study?

Does the data provide a direct reference for the analysi s of your data?

Data Analysis
Is the analysis of the data harmonic with the confidence levels in its
collection and inherent quality? Are the findings reasonable and realistic,
are they discussed in terms of validity and limitations? Are all the control
variables discussed? Are the conclusions consistent with the data and
hypotheses?

What do the findings mean for your study, and how do they relate to any
other comparable studies/ data that you are aware of? Does the
discussion of the evidence indicate any particular problems with
collection, validity, or analysis requirements?

Referencing
Are the references properly cited? Could any of the references provide
useful leads for your study?

Are there any significant references with which the study is inconsistent,
or over-reliant? Are there any key sources missing from the conceptual
defence in the paper? How would you change the reference choice?

Discussion
Are the discussion points and conclusions valid? Do they extend your
knowledge?

Do you agree with the discussion points and conclusions? What are the
theoretical and/ or practical implications of the results? How has your
conceptual understanding changed because of reading this paper? Do
you need to make any changes to your research design and/ or
conceptual assumptions?

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Overall Importance
Now rank the paper according to its importance to your research. Note
also whether it is formative and does not need to be used again, or
whether it has an ongoing usefulness (including assisting with
establishing the terms of reference for your discussion).

Now do an analysis of the significance of the paper. What are the main
strengths of the paper? What are the main weaknesses of the paper?
What challenges does it raise for your existing concepts/ evidence/
proposed research? How opportunities does it raise?

Futures
Does the paper alert you to any information or requirements for
information which were hitherto unidentified? Does it raise issues which
require you to review any other papers? Does it indicate any particular
problems or risks to your research project/ process? Does the paper give
you any new ideas about the approach to the research (or challenge your
assumed approach)?

In what way does the paper add to the existing body of knowledge? Is it
contemporary? How could the paper be improved?

Is this dealt with in your research?

It is useful to make a written record of your evaluation of a paper in


relation to your perspective on the research issues at the time. This
should be dated, and where it relates closely to any issues which were
pivotal to the research at the time, the contribution this made to your
understanding and conceptualisation should be recorded. Reference and
store your notes and the original paper according to the principles
outlined in Chapter 2.

At the end of this chapter, you will find the parameters for evaluation set
out in the form of a checklist. You may find it useful to photocopy this
checklist and use it with the papers that you have identified as being
relevant to your research topic.

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PF3.2
What differentiates the conceptualisation process from a literature
review?
PF 3.3
What are the key components of an academic paper that you should
consider when reviewing it?

3.3.3 Integrating The Literature Review With


Conceptualisation
It is unlikely that the final conceptualisation will occur in a single cycle −
your thoughts will probably develop over time and key references will
acquire new value as your perspective changes. A clear set of notes about
how these thoughts develop, and the sources of the literature review
contribution will be useful. A written record also serves to locate the
contribution of the information in terms of conceptual development and
chronology should that turn out to be important. If the record is thorough,
it will allow you to piece together how your conceptual model developed
during the lifetime of the research. This may or may not be an issue for
the final research findings, according to the type of research. It will also
usually assist you in your review of information sources.

3.4 Issues To Consider When Comparing Literature

3.4.1 Integration And Transformation


So far in this chapter, we have dealt with the principles of
conceptualisation and the academic review of a single paper. The next
stage in the conceptualisation process involves integrating the issues
raised from a range of papers and views in the field. Once integrated, the
resulting conceptual picture will become richer. Any inconsistencies of
your own making, or as a consequence of the nature of the field, or your
selection of literature, should become apparent. Where the

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inconsistencies are of your making, you will need to do some further


work on the conceptualisation to rationalise the model. This might
involve further reading in the same area or in a complementary one. You
may need time to reflect on the information and consolidate your
opinions. It could be that the inconsistency appears to be symptomatic of
a genuine issue which the remainder of the research field does not
adequately address. In this case, a potential research question has been
discovered, which you may feel you can gather evidence sufficient to
answer.

The transformation process should involve the integration of the


information from external sources with your emerging conceptual model
of the field and the research issue. The integration process will test the
consistency of your information transformation process. If your
transformation process is unreliable, it will require you to repeatedly
review your information sources, and the content of your research
records will be uncoordinated. Apart from this being time-consuming and
diverting efforts from the larger issues of the research project, it can
adversely affect the development of your conceptual model.

3.4.2 Contradiction
Since the first information sources which the researcher examines tend to
set the approach to the conceptualisation, it is worth deliberately
collecting together a variety of papers which approach the issue from
differing perspectives, with the aim of making a specific exercise of
comparing and contrasting their approaches, their inherent and explicit
assumptions, and their findings. This diversity of approach will assist you
in taking a broad view of your own findings and in presenting the field
literature in a relatively neutral form. In doing so, you will need to deal
with contradictions in the field literature.

Academic research is characterised by its contradictions and wide


diversity of opinions on seemingly similar issues. It is normal for
competing schools of thought to be emerging and dissolving regularly.
This obliges the new researcher to examine and identify distinctions
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which may be a barrier to rapid entry into a research field. However, it


also creates an environment where diversity of opinion is acceptable,
even expected. It is the researcher’s right, indeed responsibility, to
develop an individual interpretation of the existing knowledge and
emergent information and theories about the field. Only through this
diversity can the fields grow and evolve with changes in perspective and
information. Bear in mind that the central and long-established theories
in a field may have a degree of inertia which the emerging research
papers will not suffer from, and so it is not always the best choice to look
at the long established works alone.

At the end of this chapter, you will find another checklist which should
help you deal with contradictory theories.

3.4.3 Inheritance Of Previous Research


The literature review will help determine the need and legitimacy of the
proposed study, and define the ground that has already been covered
adequately by other researchers. It may be that some careful searching at
this stage will reduce or even remove the need for the proposed study. A
fortunate find in the literature may give you a good start and allow you to
go much further than you had first hoped within your resource limits.
Note the reference to adequacy − whilst all research projects and research
findings are of equal potential merit, some turn out to be more equal than
others.

At this stage of the research it is particularly important to consider the


quality and realism of assumptions in other reported research. This is
especially important where the piece of work appears to have a pivotal
role in the development of your research design. If you were to base the
critical assumptions for your project design on assumptions used in
another research project which were of poor or otherwise indeterminable
quality, you could be invalidating your findings before you have even
collected the first data. Perhaps their assumptions are sound, but only in
the context of their research? How do they compare with the other
relevant works in the field? Their research findings as a whole may not

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be extendible to your application, and therefore of little more than an


indicative value.

Consider also the limitations of their findings and the applicability or


extendibility of their results. As a simple example, a pre-1989 survey on
the structure of the Construction Industry may be of limited value in the
late 1990s.

In the field of construction research, there is a relatively poor inheritance


of quality research, and therefore you may find yourself operating in
areas where there really is no previous literature, so the nature and prior
knowledge about the research problem is based on experience only. In
such cases, the entire design of the research will be influenced by this
lack of previous recorded work.

3.4.4 Maintaining Neutrality


However the balance of evidence and conceptual offerings contribute to
your conceptualisation, it is essential that your literature review is
conducted independently. It is not unusual for an emerging researcher to
disagree with the existing field conventions, if there is some information
or other evidence to suggest that such a difference is defensible. The
middle ground can be an excellent position from which to review other
works and you should be careful to preserve your neutrality in the
analysis of other works.

It is important to recognise that the orientation of individual researchers


can have a profound effect on the terms of reference for a piece of
research. This may be based on previous experiences and personal
viewpoints, and will shape their conceptualisation of the research
problem. In some cases, it may even decide whether they believe that
there is a real issue to research. This can significantly affect their
conceptualisation of the problem, especially in areas where there is scope
for differing interpretations of issues in the field. Hence a piece of
research into, say, environmental impact assessment may be strongly

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shaped by the researcher’s understanding and personal position on the


environment.

Other issues will help shape the conceptualisation of the research


problem. Sometimes there will be a feasibility analysis of the
acceptability of foreseeable findings, particularly where there may be
politically or commercially-sensitive outcomes.

Individual researchers will usually have pre-dispositions to


methodological techniques, and this can play a surprisingly large part in
defining the nature and design of the research project. Those with a
quantitative or qualitative leaning will often view the problem and
possible design of the research exercise in either quantitative or
qualitative terms. This is a complex aspect of the research, but is very
important to the design of the project and to the interpretation of the
findings.

3.4.5 Research In The Real World


The conventional wisdom on research suggests that there is a linear and
scientific order to defining the problem, the research question and hence
data needs and a collection strategy. In practice, it is most important to
recognise that issues such as the availability of data or the commercial
acceptability of research questions may play the formative role in
determining the scope and pathway of the research project. Considered
openly, these issues are informing and can help produce a systematically-
designed and transparent piece of research.

In many research projects, particularly industrial problem-led projects,


the research problem is defined in advance of the research. However,
with a research project that is of an essentially formative nature, perhaps
where researchers are exploring a new field about which they have little
prior knowledge, a considerable amount of time will be required for the
identification and pre-reading of key material which can inform the
project. This material will probably play a part in the final design of the
research project by determining the exact nature of the current data
shortfall and the practicalities experienced by other researchers of
collecting data of the relevant form.

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3.4.6 Trans-disciplinary Research


It will of course be essential for the individual researcher to become
sufficiently articulate with the key concepts of the field. Aside from the
sheer scale of work that can be involved in researching in a new or
emerging area, this pre-assumes that the researcher can understand the
field. There may be significant problems with unfamiliar base concepts
within which other field researchers are operating. This can create a
barrier to entry for a researcher with a particular academic grounding. In
trans-disciplinary research where, by definition, researchers will cross
disciplines, this can be an acute problem. Currently this is a very popular
approach to research, since it is thought that the maturity of traditionally
isolated individual disciplines may be sufficiently advanced to support
comparisons and cross-sector transfers of knowledge. Such research may
produce effective and efficient short-term gains. In such cases it can be
very worthwhile to create a cross-disciplinary team to allow the prior
knowledge of the respective fields to be covered by the team as a whole.

PF3.4
Write keyword notes on the issues to be considered when comparing
literature

3.5 Summary
You should now be familiar with the principles of conceptualisation and
the review of academic literature. When you have worked through the
checklists at the end of this chapter, you will have made a structured
analysis of an academic paper and should understand how to identify and
deal with diverse opinions presented in research papers. You should also
be able to compare and contrast the evidence for opposing academic
viewpoints and make a critical appraisal of academic theories in the
literature. It should also be clear how the creation of a conceptual model
and the literature review relate to the research process as a whole. These

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techniques will allow you to systematically distil meaning from the


information sources available to you.

The next stage of the research process involves the definition of a precise
research topic. This will be based on the structured analysis of the field
literature using the techniques outlined in this chapter. Your
conceptualisation of the research issues will allow you to design a
research question and identify the hypothetical answers to your question.
Based upon this you will be able to design the remainder of the research
project. The selection of research questions can be facilitated by a variety
of techniques for generating ideas, which will be introduced in the next
chapter.

3.5.1 Recommended Reading

Bell, J. 1993 Doing Your Research Project: A Guide For First Time
Researchers in Education and Social Science Open University Press (2nd
Edition) ISBN 0-335-19094-4. A good introductory text on literature
review (see pp 33-51).

Rudestam, K.E., 1992 Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive


Guide to Content and Process Sage Publications ISBN 0-8039-4563- 9.
pp 45-59 (Review Of The Literature And Statement Of The Problem)

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3.6 Checklist Series 1 − Analysing Literature

1. Title and Abstract

Reference details for the paper

Date:

How well does the title and abstract correspond to the content of the
paper?

Does the abstract relate well to the content of the paper? If not, why not?

Should any parts of the paper be expanded? How and Why?

Does the paper suggest explicitly, or by omission, any novel areas of


research potential?

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Does the paper explicitly identify any areas of research which are
exhausted, unworthwhile, or unresearchable?

What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

2. Main Points

Reference details for the paper

Date:

Are the main points in the paper consistent and supported by evidence or
defensible conceptual founding? What are they?

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Do you agree with them and do they support or contest your existing
concepts/ evidence? Discuss the contentions in detail, together with your
thoughts for their solution and/ or implications.

What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

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3. Meaning

Reference details for the paper

Date:

Is the meaning of the paper clear and realistic? What is it?

In what aspects is the meaning not clear, and is this because of a lack of
theory or evidence, or simply poor explanation or incomplete research?

Can you compensate for or supplement any omissions, or do you now


need to look elsewhere for any particular issues?

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How can you address these issues in your research?

What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

4. Concepts

Reference details for the paper

Date:

What is the underlying conceptual model and terms of reference which


the author has used for the study?

Are the key concepts clearly discussed?

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Which other key conceptual models from the research field that you are
aware of are comparable?

How do these other concepts compare, and how do they contrast?

Do you agree with the conceptual model and the implicit or explicit
assumptions?

Are the key variables identified and their inter-relationships explicitly


discussed and reasonable?

Explain your reasons and the significance of any differences of opinion.

What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

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5. Structure/ Design

Reference details for the paper

Date:

Is the paper well structured? If not, what is the fault?

Is the research process clearly stated and logical? How could it be


improved?

Is the emphasis placed upon the various aspects of the research correct
and consistent with the findings and their application?

What is the research design?

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Could a similar or carefully varied structure be used for your research


design?

How does this approach relate to the process conventions of the field?

What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

6. Focus and Control

Reference details for the paper

Date:

Is the research focused, or could elements of it be excluded from the


research without significant loss of value or applicability?

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Is there a clearly stated research question and hypothesis or proposition?


Are they testable, and is the research as described an adequate test?

Is there adequate control of extraneous variables?

Are the assumptions valid and significant for the applicability or


comparison of the research with the remainder of the research in the
field?

What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

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7. Data

Reference details for the paper

Date:

Are you satisfied with the data collection (methodology)? If not, why
not?

Is the methodology applicable to your research problem, is the data


collection approach transferable to your context?

How does this approach relate to the methodological conventions of the


field?

Are you satisfied with the data quality and quantity?

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Are the data appropriate for the study?

Does the data provide a direct reference for the analysis of your data?

What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

8. Data Analysis

Reference details for the paper

Date:

Is the analysis of the data harmonic with the confidence levels in its
collection and inherent quality? If not, what significance does this have?

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Are the findings reasonable and realistic, are they discussed in terms of
validity and limitations?

Are all the control variables discussed?

Are the conclusions consistent with the data and hypotheses?

What do the findings mean for your study, and how do they relate to any
other comparable studies/ data that you are aware of?

Does the discussion of the evidence indicate any particular problems


with collection, validity, or analysis requirements?

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What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

9. Referencing

Reference details for the paper here

Date:

Are the references properly cited?

Could any of the references provide useful leads for your study? Which
ones?

Are there any significant references with which the study is inconsistent,
or over-reliant?

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Are there any key sources missing from the conceptual defence in the
paper?

How would you change the reference choice?

What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

10. Discussion

Reference details for the paper

Date:

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Are the discussion points and conclusions valid? If not, why not?

Do they extend your knowledge?

Do you agree with the concepts?

What are the theoretical and/ or practical implications of the results?

How has your conceptual understanding changed because of reading this


paper?

Do you need to make any changes to your research design and/ or


conceptual assumptions? If so, what?

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What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

11. Overall Significance

Reference details for the paper

Date:

Now rank the paper according to its importance to your research. Note
also whether it is formative and does not need to be used again, or
whether it has an ongoing usefulness (including assisting with
establishing the terms of reference for your discussion)

Now do an analysis of the significance of the paper. What are the main
strengths of the paper? What are the main weaknesses of the paper?
What challenges does it raise for your existing concepts/ evidence/
proposed research? How opportunities does it raise?

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Does the paper alert you to any information or requirements for


information which were hitherto unidentified? Does it raise issues which
require you to review any other papers? Does it indicate any particular
problems or risks to your research project/ process? Does the paper give
you any new ideas about the approach to the research (or challenge your
assumed approach)?

In what way does the paper add to the existing body of knowledge? Is it
contemporary? How could the paper be improved?

Is this dealt with in your research?

What have you learnt from this aspect of the paper?

3.7 Checklist Series 2 − Dealing With Contradictory


Theories

Choose an issue related to your research field and with which you are
sufficiently familiar to have identified some differences in opinion or
theory.

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Masters Level Module – Research Methods

Step 1: Defining The State of The Art

Record your chosen issue here:

Identify the key references/ schools of thought here:

Which theories are the most prevalent in the field?

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Masters Level Module – Research Methods

Step 2. Position Analysis

Which theories do you agree with most, and why?

Which theories do you disagree with most, and why?

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Masters Level Module – Research Methods

Comparing your reasoning for selecting the theories you agree with and
those which you disagree with, identify the pivotal issues which are
contentious for you:

Step 3. Collection of Evidence.

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Masters Level Module – Research Methods

Now select the most important contentious pivotal issue.

Record here your initial opinion on the pivotal issue and your reasoning
behind it:

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Masters Level Module – Research Methods

Step 4: Analysis of Positions

Now select at least two papers which take contrasting views on the
pivotal issue, and appraise their opinion and reasoning using the literature
critique structure outlines earlier in this chapter.

Identify the evidence for and against the contrasting views on the pivotal
issue. Record each piece of evidence below, together with a statement
about your opinion on the strength of the arguments for and against:

1.

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Masters Level Module – Research Methods

2.

3.

4.

5.

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Masters Level Module – Research Methods

Step 5: Discussion and Conclusion

Produce a brief summary statement on the pivotal issue, comparing and


contrasting the views of the sources of opinion, and your conclusion on
it.

Has your opinion changed from your initial position? If it has, how and
why?

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Masters Level Module – Research Methods

Is there any obvious need for further research work? If so how would you
propose to design the study?

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