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A Guided Sprint Through Your First Literature Review: Tips for Teacher-Researchers



The concept of a literature review might be familiar to teacher-researchers, but conducting a literature review sprint can be a game-changer, especially when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness. The idea is to delve deeply into existing research, provide a detailed analysis, and finally articulate a comprehensive overview - all within a limited time frame. This post will guide you through this exciting process, discussing where to begin, what qualifies as an academic article, and providing an example of what a completed literature review sprint might look like.


Where to Start

Setting off on a literature review sprint begins with identifying your topic of interest. This is typically a question or issue related to your teaching practice that you'd like to explore further. Once the topic is decided, the next step involves identifying the keywords and phrases that will guide your literature search.


Use these keywords to search academic databases. Some common ones include JSTOR, ERIC, PubMed, Google Scholar, and your university's library databases. Always begin with academic databases, since they host peer-reviewed research articles that meet rigorous scholarly standards.

Remember, your aim is to focus on finding quality literature that is directly related to your research question. Don't let the vastness of available research distract you. Keep your objective in mind and try to remain focused on relevant resources.


Identifying Academic Articles

In a literature review, the key is to focus on peer-reviewed, academic articles. These are scholarly papers that have been reviewed by other experts in the field before publication. They generally include original research, in-depth analyses, and extensive reference lists. This distinguishes them from sources like online education magazines or blogs, which may offer interesting insights but lack the rigor and validation of academic research.


Peer-reviewed articles ensure that the data presented is valid, the methods used are sound, and the conclusions are justified. They make a significant contribution to the existing knowledge base and help maintain the integrity of your literature review.


Remember, the aim is not to simply gather information, but to understand the scholarly conversation taking place around your chosen topic.


What a Literature Review Sprint Might Look Like

Once you have gathered your academic articles, the sprint truly begins. Your goal is to read, analyze, and compile the information in a condensed timeframe. Here's what a completed literature review sprint might look like:


Step 1 - Topic: You've selected your topic, identified your keywords, and are ready to search the databases. You spend this day collecting articles, scanning abstracts for relevance, and compiling a list of papers to read.


Define your research question clearly and concisely. The research question guides your literature review and should be specific enough to allow for a focused exploration of the topic.


Prompt: What question or problem is your literature review aiming to address?


Describe the classroom setting and subject that your literature review is based on. This helps frame your research and contextualize your review.


Prompt: In what classroom setting and subject area does your research question apply?

Identify your topic of interest related to your research question. The topic should be narrow enough to provide a detailed review of the literature.


Prompt: What specific topic related to the classroom setting/subject are you interested in studying for your literature review?


List at least 5-10 keywords related to your research question and topic. These will help you in searching for relevant literature.


Prompt: What keywords will you use to search for literature related to your research question and topic?


Step 2 - Reading: These days are dedicated to reading. As you read each article, note down the main points, the research methodology used, and the conclusions drawn. Also, identify any gaps in the research that your study might address.


Step 3 - Analysis: This is the day for analysis and synthesis. Look for patterns and trends across the articles, and group them accordingly. You might find varying viewpoints or repeated themes – all of these help to build a well-rounded understanding of your topic.


Step 4 - Writing: You start writing your review, following a logical structure. Begin with an introduction outlining the purpose of your review. Then, discuss the themes you've identified, relating them back to your research question. Finally, conclude by highlighting the gaps in the literature and explaining how your research will contribute to the field.


Step 5 - Final Edits: You polish your review, ensuring it flows smoothly and makes logical sense. After proofreading, your first literature review sprint is complete!

This condensed timeline can be adjusted as needed, based on your schedule and the complexity of the topic.


Conducting a literature review sprint can be a valuable exercise for teacher-researchers, offering an opportunity to explore a topic in-depth while developing skills in critical analysis and synthesis.


Remember, the goal is not just to summarize what you read, but to engage with it, critique it, and weave it into a coherent narrative that adds value to your research. Good luck with your sprint!

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