My PhD work is to “analyse current methods of performing a Literature Review and known hypertext opportunities and design specific visually augmented views to augment the student ability better deliver on the University PhD requirements assessment criteria and build and live in such a system to ascertain what is particularly useful for specific use-cases” as agreed with Les Carr and Wendy Hall.
University PhD Literature Review Requirements
The guide to conducting a literature review on the University of Southampton website is clear: “Conducting a literature review enables you to demonstrate your understanding and knowledge of the existing work within your field of research. Doing so allows you to identify any undeveloped areas or unexplored issues within a specific debate or field of study. This, in turn, helps you to clearly and persuasively demonstrate how your own research will address one or more of these gaps.” This guide is without an author itself so it is, a bit ironically, difficult to cite by anything more than it’s web address: http://library.soton.ac.uk/ld.php?content_id=31944998 It follows with specific recommendations on writing your literature review:
- “Show the connections between your sources. Remember that your review should be more than merely a list of sources with brief descriptions under each one. You are constructing a narrative. Show clearly how each text has contributed to the current state of the literature, drawing connections between them.”
- “Engage critically with your sources. This means not simply describing what they say. You should be evaluating their content: do they make sound arguments? Are there any flaws in the methodology? Are there any relevant themes or issues they have failed to address? You can also compare their relative strengths and weaknesses.”
- “Signpost throughout to ensure your reader can follow your narrative. Each time you bring up a new source it should be made obvious to your reader why you are doing this and where the discussion is headed. Keep relating the discussion back to your specific research topic.”
- “Make a clear argument. Keep in mind that this is a chance to present your take on a topic. Your literature review showcases your own informed interpretation of a specific area of research. If you have followed the advice given in this guide you will have been careful and selective in choosing your sources. You are in control of how you present them to your reader.”
For all of these points the citation information needs to be available in useful digital form for a visualisation system to be useful beyond a demo and this is why I developed the Visual-Meta system: http://wordpress.liquid.info/printed-meta/ and developed the Liquid | Reader to be able to experience and improve a full workflow: http://www.liquid.info/reader.html
The first bullet point hints about visualisations which can show visual lines between sources. For this aspect I have built the Dynamic View into Liquid | Author, as demonstrated in this video on YouTube viewed over 30,000 times: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCpJTRd0hrE&t=16s and described on the Liquid | Author website, which also lists the (highly positive) user reviews: http://www.liquid.info/author.html
The other points reflect less on a potential visualisations and more on the student’s mental effort of critically engaging and structuring an (linear) argument focused on the research topic. These are aspects traditionally covered by plain text but which hint at visual augmentation.
The point of my PhD is not primarily to augment the student to do the work, but to demonstrate to the examiner that the work as indeed done.
- Engage critically with your sources. To show that the student engaged critically with sources could be done by giving the sources link-types, which can be colour coded for example.
- Signpost throughout to ensure your reader can follow your narrative. This can also suit the Dynamic View model by allowing the author student to present highlights and directions clearly.
- Make a clear argument. An argument is essentially linear but is informed by non-linear sources. This can also be show in an expanding and collapsing Dynamic View model.
In view of this, I am still working on how to best show citation sources in the Dynamic View as blogged under: