Literature Review: Hindsight

Last week I spoke about writing my literature review, this week my literature review is now in and I have hindsight to deal with.

Handing in the literature review came with a nervous relief; part of me was convinced there was still more work to be done (there always is) and that I would do terribly on it, the other half said I had done all that I could have done and was just pleased to have it out of my hands. For a while, I did feel like there was a void where the literature review had once been. After working on it solidly for about 10 weeks, and thinking about it for even longer, suddenly I had nothing to do. Fortunately (or unfortunately?), I have exams after the Christmas holidays, so can fill the void with studying.  Yay.

Still, thinking back, there are a couple of things I would have done differently. The way I did complete it was perfectly fine, don’t get me wrong, but I think the whole experience would have been easier, and a lot less stressful, if I had tweaked things a little bit.

First and foremost – writing notes as I went along reading the research articles. When I wrote it, I read through the articles and summarised the key points, results and method in a table. This way I could decide which papers to include and then write notes on them afterwards. However, when it got down to it, I ended up taking up valuable writing time writing the notes instead. While the original idea was to save time, it did not work out so well. I ended up going back to some papers I had cast aside to find that little bit of vital information they had, that I had not realised I needed, when I could have had the notes already.

Secondly, planning. I had planned out my time before even starting the research and then planned out the actual essay, so it is not like I did no planning whatsoever. What I did find, though, is that I did not really take into account other commitments and events that would come up. I overestimated how much time I would have and my abilities in getting the work done at the speed I had set. This has taught me a lot about my working skills, and how to plan better to suit myself in the future, but it did mean that I did find myself a little rushed towards the end.

Lastly, if I were to go back and start the literature review over again, I think I would have dedicated one day a week, at least, to it. Instead, I did it in various lengths of times on the odd day, fitting it around other work and fitting other work around it. I’m not entirely sure how feasible spending a day on the literature review would be, but I think it would have worked better for me if I could have sat down and planned what I was going to achieve in a day and then do it, spending as along as I needed in the literature review zone.

That’s the main things hindsight have shown me that I could have done differently. Despite it, I am pleased with what I accomplished with my literature review. For any of you that have done one, is there anything you would have done differently? Let me know in the comments below.

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