The Study Dude – Thesis Down the Rabbit Hole

Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants than for you to slip inside the rabbit hole to discover the truth behind lit reviews.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

This week’s Study Dude looks at Reason & Rigor: How Conceptual Frameworks Guide Research by Sharon M. Ravitch and Matthew Riggan. They show why our supervisors’ explanations of lit reviews or conceptual frameworks spawn dizzy spells.

Many-Faced? The Conceptual Framework
When I dreamt about conceptual frameworks and theoretical frameworks, I spaced out.

I eventually learned a bit about theories: one should focus mostly on theories published as whole books. And use multiple theories if possible. And disagree with parts of a theory if supportable.

But, I didn’t know the difference between conceptual and theoretical frameworks. And, I bet, neither do you. And your likely professor doesn’t know the difference either. That is, until now.

And once you learn what a conceptual framework really is, you still won’t know. That’s because everyone’s got their view, and you’re about to hear the biggies.

Ravitch and Riggan reveal what they think conceptual frameworks are:
– A conceptual framework is “an argument about why the topic one wishes to study matters, and why the means proposed to study it are appropriate and rigorous” (Ravitch & Riggan, p. xiii).
– A conceptual framework is also theory, methodology, lit review, and the researcher’s personal views and experiences.
– But some people think a conceptual framework is merely the same thing as the theoretical framework.
– Others say a conceptual framework has three parts: 1. Theoretical literature, 2. Empirical studies from prior researchers, and 3. One’s own experiences, values, and views.
– Others still say a conceptual framework is a visual model of the study’s structure or of key theoretical findings.
– As a hint, when using theories in your conceptual framework, try not to make your data fit a single theory. Try to use multiple theories that complement one another.
– Put together a lot of contradictory views in your conceptual framework. (Contradictory views feel like an argument among academics that you mediate. Readers love conflict with a clear winner?or at least with a Rocky going the distance.)
– Synthesize your lit review to fit the unfolding of your research. In other words, let your lit review evolve with your emerging findings.

A Many-Eyed Being: The Lit Review

If you go to graduate school, you’ll write a literature, or lit review.

But like conceptual frameworks, I bet you really don’t know what a lit review is. That’s because lit reviews have many shades. If you see only one shade, you don’t see the picture.

On the brighter side, some say lit reviews are like conversations. Imagine the giants on your topic in a room debating, but with your voice peeping through. Your peep could be what you glean from the conversation through selective hearing.

Or better yet, you can speak up and agree with Dr. X. Or you could disagree with Dr. X based on something you heard Dr. Y say. Or, if everyone gangs up on Dr. X, you could gang up on him too, but, let’s face it, rarely does one care to hear the conformist view?unless you reveal something no-one mentioned about him. But, if everyone gangs up on him, and you side with him, pointing out a moral failing of the majority, then you’ve got our attention. Make your peep count.

Also, if you say something, give it strength. Puff up support: facts, expert testimonies, research, stats, news stories, surveys, interviews, focus groups, social media trends, government Websites, think tank Websites, analytics, artifacts, visual media, audio media, multimedia, edible things?even stenches. (Stenches spark conversation.)

Be heard.

If you go to grad school, expressing your voice is a lot easier. As a grad student, you’ll discover that many methodologies beg you to bear your soul.

Ravitch and Riggan explore the many shades of lit reviews:
– Many academics have different views of what a lit review actually is.
– Some think lit reviews show off your knowledge.
– Others think lit reviews are a way to place your research in the larger picture.
– Some think lit reviews are a conversation that you enter.
– The problem with seeing a lit reviews as a conversation? There’s no agreement on how much or how little a student can voice his or her views.
– When doing lit reviews, see the clusters of similar or differing views. Ask yourself what questions are left unanswered.
– Lit reviews help students know what’s relevant in their areas of study. Lit reviews also help students build from the work of other researchers.
– Just focus on the most important literature when doing a lit review.
– Lit reviews also let us know where more research is needed in the general field of study.
– Lit reviews also help us know what methodology and research design we should undertake.
– Synthesize other’s research to come to your own conclusions.
– You need to research the “conversation,” figure out how to insert your own voice, and use that to help you choose your methodologies and theories.
– The lit review’s primary purpose? To learn.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

ReferencesRavitch, Sharon M., & Riggan, Matthew. (2012). Reason & Rigor: How Conceptual Frameworks Guide Research. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.