A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review

As I gear up for my PhD Confirmation paper submission on Friday, all thoughts are now academic. My PhD is looking at how bicycles create more positive community change and this post gives a quick overview of an academic skills workshop I attended earlier this week that will help me explain and distribute my research more widely. Viva la bici! NG.


A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review

How to write a kick-ass Literature Review? Need a publication? How about conducting a SQLR? Never heard of it?

A SQLR is a Systematic Quantitative Literature Review – it is where the best Lit Reviews are at! The SQLR technique was devised by Prof. Pickering (Griffith University School of Environmental Science) …. and it is amazing!

Here’s a quick snapshot of what it is… On the offical SQLR website it is described as..

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

I won’t go into details about what is is here – there are some fabulous resources online here and  a series of very clear step-by-step video instructions here that explains the process better than I can.

Suffice to say that it is a kick-ass way to get a comprehensive lit review completed AS WELL AS  being able to publish it.

SQLR publications are still relatively new and more often used in science disciplines. There are a few SQLR starting to crop up in the social sciences, so it is a good time to get in, as scholarly interest is increasing – and you can leverage the ‘novel’, yet comprehensive contribution it provides to a research field.

For theses, you need to do a thorough lit review anyway, so why not do a super good job of it AND get published?

Don’t get me wrong; it is a serious undertaking and hard work, but… oh so worth it!

My SQLR problem
I did a SQLR as part of my lit review. You need at minimum 15 articles to do a SQLR. Even with the help of librarians, I only found 12 publications specifically on my topic. Crap!

This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it means my area is emerging and requires scholarly attention (i.e. justification of my PhD!!). But it’s also a curse because there is insufficient evidence and breadth to establish generalizations or to formulate a theoretical framework purely based on previous work.

So I went to the Advancing SQLR session to see what my options were.

Boy, am I happy I did. Prof. Pickering sure packed a lot into the one-hour session!

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

Top 4 takeaways from this session.

1. Questions = Answers!
I had prepared questions ahead of time and I didn’t waste any time asking them. My hand was first up, and I was very appreciative that the Prof answered them directly and clearly. I got exactly the info I needed. As well as asking questions directly related to aspects of my project, I was also sure to reiterate the answers back so there were transferrable elements and general practicalities that would be applicable to other students as well.

2. Concrete examples
The PPT and handout provided included heaps of concrete examples of next-generation ideas, explanations/justifications and development techniques to include to maximise publication possibilities. See some of the examples at the end of this post – Unbeatable!

3. Analysis Inspiration
I was inspired by the ‘advanced’ level and types of analysis Prof. Pickering presented. It truly was ‘advancing’ the process on the original SQLR session. It was great to see to what degree, and the types of creative analysis that is being drawn out of SQLR data.

It was at this stage that I got some specific idea on how to meet my minimum source quotas to exceed my current 12, which the Prof. also confirmed in more detail during Q & A– woohoo!

4. The infuriating 3rd Reviewer (or in this case the in-FUHRER-iating)
As the session drew to a close, the conversation turned to getting published. One of the biggest headaches and sources of stress and anger for scholarly authors is the infamous ‘3rd reviewer’.

In response to dealing with the frustration of getting 3rd review feedback, the Prof. recommended the video below – Bloody GOLD!

(The quality is not 100%, but well worth it for the relief it brings!)

Add my own practical visual data 2 cents!

Overall I was very glad that I went to the session.

During Q & A, I offered my top picks of the most useful and relatively easy to use free (or free trial/nominal fee) design software programs that others might want to check out if they want to might want to spice up their text-heavy work and present data in a more engaging way.

Prof. Pickering appreciated the practical suggestions. She asked me to email her what my suggestions were. I also had a few attendees ask me afterwards for the names of the programs.

I felt good that I contributed something valuable for my cohort as well as getting exactly what I needed out of the session!

Now to apply it all!

Now, I need to get back to work and  look at how I’m going to integrate this into my Confirmation paper.

If you are doing any kind of research, I highly recommend checking out SQLR as a lit review methodology.

Best of luck and let me know how you get on with it!

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. PickeringA Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. PickeringImages: Prof. Pickering Advancing SQLR Handout.

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