Making Digital Sense of the Lit Review

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Although the desktop on my laptop sometimes resembles a crazy quilt, most of the time articles and files are clearly labeled, dated, and neatly filed into folders.  I’ve learned the hard way that the extra few minutes spent in organization pays off in efficiency down the road as the folders fill, especially with research articles for the dissertation literature review.  Making the switch from printing, highlighting, and annotating hard copies has come slowly; however, creating a digital version of “file cards” (the “making sense” part of the literature review) has been much easier.

There’s a lot of information to extract and record in any comprehensive research review:  for instance, the citation, type of study, subjects, sample and population, instruments, results, and the reviewers’ own notes as well as salient quotes. Categories can vary, of course, depending upon the needs of each dissertation writer.

Creating a table in Word seemed the most sensible solution (see example below). Not only did it help to have everything in one place, but in the course of recording the details of multiple studies, patterns and connections began to emerge in the literature.  In addition, quickly scanning the cumulative file at the beginning of each work session proved an effective re-entry point for writing.   Finally, when it came time to write, it was simple to copy and paste citations and relevant quotes, and helpful to review study type and procedures in order to assess the literature critically.   Altogether, not such a crazy way to stitch together the quilt.

Citation:                                                                                                                                                                  Blase, J., & Blase, J. (2000). Effective instructional leadership: Teachers’ perspectives on how principals promote teaching and learning in schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 38, 130-141.
Public school teachers taking courses at three major universities
809 teachers              558 females
380 elementary          177 middle
252 high school
Open-ended questionnaire; Inventory of Strategies Used By Principals to Influence Classroom Teaching (ISUPICT)
Sampling Procedures
Not                 specified
 Major conclusions:                                                                                                                              Researchers derived model of effective instructional leadership from two major themes that emerged from data analysis – talking with teachers to promote reflection and promoting professional growth.
My notes:                                                                                                                                                     instrument included open-ended questions – thus they were able to collect qualitative, “in their own words” data.
Quotes:“We found that in effective principal-teacher interaction about instruction, processes such as inquiry,             reflection, exploration, and experimentation result; teachers build repertoires of flexible alternatives                  rather than collecting rigid teaching procedures and methods” (p. 132).

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