Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Research Imagination (2nd edition)
This second edition is targeted at postgraduate students researching a thesis or dissertation and aims to develop competent, world-class researchers.
The book is not written specifically for midwives, nurses or healthcare workers; emphasis and examples are often taken from the social sciences. However, as the process of doing a literature review is similar across disciplines, the book relevant to a wide audience. Undergraduate students may also find the book useful if they want to give their review an additional dimension by ‘releasing their research imagination’.
The contents and layout of the book allows the reader to follow the chronological order of the review process, and encourages a critical and analytical approach. Readers can start the beginning and read to the very end if desired, or dip in and out as needed.
The author acknowledges common concerns from postgraduate students, while giving tips and encouragement throughout. Chapters follow the logical order used in a literature review, and provide questions, ideas and frameworks that can be used or adapted to meet the individual needs of the project.
The title of the book promises a release of your ‘research imagination’, which may be a new concept to many students. The first chapter links research imagination to sociological imagination through detailed explanation and examples. Students are encouraged to shift their thinking from one perspective to another while building a total picture of the topic and rationalising the research question.
The chapters follow a traditional format, while the use of bullet points, numbering, tables and figures make them easy to follow and find key points quickly. Chapters asks important questions to engage the reader, encouraging them to think about each topic while detailing the core skills. Each topic also ends with a succinct summary that brings it all together well.
The contents page, list of figures and tables, reference section and index allow easy signposting for the reader and are both comprehensive and informative. There is ample room in the margins for notes if desired.
As the book progresses and turns to more analytical and critical matters, so do the content of the chapters. This includes extended examples and complicated diagrams, which may be off-putting to some readers. However, if not directly relevant to the students' needs, they may be used as a point of reference only.
As the reader is someone who is choosing to undertake a literature review for a thesis or dissertation, the key aspects are reinforced throughout the book. These include the sound understanding of the topic, thorough knowledge and understanding of the previous research and most importantly, what the issue or unanswered question is that can lead to a new piece of research.
There are many textbooks on the subject of undertaking a literature review and this book fulfils and exceeds its title. By using the suggestions and examples, the reader will hopefully find different ways of thinking about research to give them the edge in their literature review, setting it apart from the others and leading to a novel research question in a context of strong competition for publications, grants and future careers.
It is important for students to follow the guidelines and criteria from their higher education institution for their chosen degree. They should be mindful of the course aims, objectives and specifications, in conjunction with effective communication with their personal tutor or supervisor.
Having undertaken a systematic review for both my undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations, I would have liked to be aware of what research imagination is and how to release it! Hindsight is a wonderful thing!