I don’t know why I was surprised to find so many videos about how to do literature reviews on YouTube. Following my first year review, I’m having to focus on this so I thought I’d see what other people have to say.

I, like many graduate students, hate doing literature reviews. From what I’ve noted of my fellow students, lots of us really don’t understand what one is, how to do it, and how not to do it.

To start with, how do you define the scope of the literature review? Do I try and read everything about iron smelting? Everything about the analysis of iron smelting debris? Everything about Roman iron? Everything about what the Romans thought about technology? Everything about the archaeological contexts of Romano-British iron production All of the above? And if it’s all of the above, how do I manage to do that coherently – because there’s multiple different stories and focusses in those different areas.

I have been working on a lit review for some time, but it just hasn’t got anywhere. Having listened to the videos below, and done some reading on the process of a literature review, I’ve come to the conclusion I’m going to have to start again in a much more focussed, explicit manner.

Below is a list of the videos I’ve looked at. Some of them are pretty basic, some of them were a bit irritating. Particularly annoying is the focus on banal writing issues like “take good notes” or “remember to write down page numbers”.

The majority of videos appear to be aimed at graduate students, so surely they realise that basic reading/writing techniques are not the issue? That aside, some of the videos do have some more useful advice on how to undertake the process of a literature review.

Carolina State University Library Service (8 mins) – fairly basic, but some nice diagrams.
Patrick McMahon (20 mins ish in three parts) – slow going, reassuring manner, but covers everything in an irritatingly basic manner. I didn’t make it through all of the videos, as this didn’t answer my questions.
Jozsef (1 min) – quick slideshow of a number of bullet points – but quite as good as some of the longer videos. Again pretty basic.
STRIDE Project ongoing process (6 mins) – three students discuss their experiences, useful and helps you know your difficulties are not unique.
STRIDE Project supervisors discuss the lit review (6 mins) – this one’s particularly good, though again a few people focus on the minutiae of reading/writing.
PZ29 (an undergrad lecturer) (6 mins) – not originally made for general consumption, but surprisingly good.

If I ever master the writing of literature reviews, I will post my thoughts here!


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