Things to do in week 3

Things to do
It appears that the group will opt to conduct a systematic review (SR)1. You will be busy searching for resources to include in your initial set of references. As you come to terms with the process and components of a SR it is useful to be aware of some of the alternative arguments associated with conducting SRs.

A debate about these issues took place in the British Educational Research Journal in 2001. A paper by Evans and Benefield located SRs in the context of the emergence of the notion of evidence-based policy which is now a familiar part of many educational bureaucracies. They illustrated the approach to SR with what by now will be the familiar process of conducting a SR. They reported "a review of interventions to support primary-aged pupils with emotional and behavioural dif􏰜ficulties in mainstream primary classrooms". The paper prompted a response by Hammersley (2001) which raised a number of important considerations.

If you use Google scholar to locate the reply by Hammersley and then look at the papers that cite the Hammersley paper2 you can get some sense of the important early debates that were at play when this approach to reviewing the literature was taken up in educational research.

The two papers were:
Evans, J., & Benefield, P. (2001). Systematic reviews of educational research: does the medical model fit? British Educational Research Journal, 27(5), 527-541. doi:10.1080/01411920120095717

Hammersley, M. (2001). On 'systematic' reviews of research literatures: A 'narrative' response to Evans & Benefield. British Educational Research Journal, 27(5), 542-554. doi:10.1080/01411920120095726

The Hammersley paper gives you a number of useful issues to think about as you go through the process of carrying out your SR. In particular, Hammersley draws attention to the timing of the emergence of SRs given that this approach to conducting a review of literature had been well known for a long time. Like all practices in education and educational research, understanding the origins and influences when a practice is taken up helps make sense of what might now appear to be a routine approach.

I've added a short section to the Systematic reviews page on searching. There is a useful paper by Greenhalgh and Peacock (2005)3. It basically draws attention to searching that steps away from the routine searching that is commonly described in the accounts of SR. This is the Abstract

Objective To describe where papers come from in a systematic review of complex evidence.
Method Audit of how the 495 primary sources for the review were originally identified.
Results Only 30% of sources were obtained from the protocol defined at the outset of the study (that is, from the database and hand searches). Fifty one per cent were identified by “snowballing” (such as pursuing references of references), and 24% by personal knowledge or personal contacts. Conclusion Systematic reviews of complex evidence cannot rely solely on protocol-driven search strategies.

Bottom line, as long as you document what you did, any search tactics are OK. We have discussed these methods but basically boil down to:

Snowballing: pursuing the references of references.

Citation tracking: Scanning the papers that have subsequently cited a paper. Google scholar allows you to search within the citations of a given paper. Very handy.

Big names in a field: If you can identify big or influential researchers in a field they will often lead to useful reviews, edited collections and overviews.

Gray literature: Publications that are not refereed, i.e. scholarly blog posts can also be a useful way into niche fields. See also footnote 3.

But THE crucial thing to do always is to record what you do in your 1st notebook!

Weekly discussion
At this stage you will have been searching the literature of various shades4. In order to search you need to use terms to search with. Contribute a short piece listing the main terms you have been using to conduct your searches. Include a short account of your research focus as it is at present. You will recall that you need to decide on a journal to which your paper can be submitted. You will have come across journals that, on the surface, appear suitable for your paper. Post a short piece listing the journal(s) you have as part of your list of possible journals.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License