Well, I survived my first literature review. It's done and submitted but it's not the quality that I would like. I was hoping I would feel relieved once I turned it in, but I'm still ruminating about it. Since it's still in my head, I decided to get it out in a blog post.
For me, this lit review was about the learning process that went with it. I did learn a lot about my topic but I think the take away for me is how I would do things differently in the future. I'm not terribly proud of the work I turned in. It's garbage and I know it. That being said, I'm a better writer now than I was a few weeks ago. Next time I start writing, it will be from a completely different place than where I started this piece.
I learned a lot about time management. I learned that this kind of writing takes a lot of think time and focus. It can't be done in long sittings a few nights before its due. That was a hard lesson learned. I learned that sitting and writing a little each day is a good way to write. I learned that by writing down some quotes and thoughts it helped me get started and get past my writers block. I learnd that keeping research organized is a whole process in and of itself and is key to writing efficiently. I learned how to research. A few of us were lucky in that we had a library lesson in our other class a few weeks ago. This was the best thing ever. I wished it had come far earlier in the semester. I would have never found the subject guides, or how to pick more than one database or how to limit articles to peer reviewed, or ref works. Without this lesson, I would not have been as successful as I was. I learned that when writing down notes from articles, writing down the authors name, date, and pg number with the note is a critical time saver. Duh! I learned that using the reference page from an article I really liked often leads to finding more useful articles and is more efficient than doing a search on terms. I learned how important the right search terms are. I learned that sometimes the question you are writing about doesn't appear until you are well into the writing. This was a key lesson and a major source of my writing block as I couldn't focus myself because of the enormity and breadth of the research I was looking at. I learned that leaning on friends in my class and in the doctoral program was a huge source of support. Just having someone to commiserate with and have a writing session with for moral support was huge! Reading a peer's writing was helpful as well. It was more helpful than reading published articles as it felt more real to me and it gave me a clearer sense of what I needed to do.
I tried to think about what would have helped me do this better or differently. I think the library class was huge and would've been an eye-opener early on. I think seeing a sample timeline for writing would've been helpful for planning purposes. This style of writing and the time it requires was something that I was inadequately prepared for. I'm not asking for my hand to be held, but I just had no idea the enormity of the task in front of me until I really got into it. I'm not sure what I'm asking for or saying, but looking back now, I wish I had a better understanding of the task. I just didn't get it until I did it. And maybe that's the point. One key thing that I didn't understand until I got into the writing was that you can't research or write in isolation. You have to do them together. You have to write a little, read a little, and then see where the ideas lead you. And I learned that you don't have to start writing with the introduction. That was a major stumbling block. Once I jumped into write and just started doing a brain dump of what was in my head, I was able to start framing my piece. I wrote various parts of the article at different times. I went back and forth between sections as I found new information and research. I learned that ideas pop into your head and the craziest times and you have to jump on them or they get lost. I learned that keeping research organized is a huge process. Having articles spread out everywhere is chaos when you are writing and trying to find the article you want. It's definitely going to be a process to find how I want to organize my research and flag it so I can find the citing info easier. Oh and APA style - there's a learning curve. It's been over 10 years since I've needed APA style. The Owl website was a huge help. I had that at my fingertips and used it a lot. I also learned that I have to block time to write. I can't write with a 3 and 5 yr old running around. I need quiet and that often means waiting until 9:00 at night. I learned that my kitchen counter was my favorite place to write. I did use the library but I was still in my writer's block so it wasn't an efficient use of time and I didn't get the most out of it.
I think I've gotten everything out of my head now and can move on with my week-end!