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Module 4: Selecting Your Topic

Now it's time to select a topic for your paper and then identify the questions you want to answer.

True, the paper for this class is only 10 pages so you might not think that it is very important. BUT, if you take time and select a topic that truly interests you, you might save yourself a great deal of time later in the program because you can continue with this topic into your final masters paper (if you decide to do a literature review.)

Selecting your topic is not necessarily easy.  You need to find something that is broad enough to have meaning but not so narrow that there is no research on the topic.

Too Broad: Using Technology in Education
Too Narrow: The Effects of Using QR Codes with 3rd Grade Girls with Red Hair.
Just Right: Effective Methods for Making Learning More Student-Centric Using QR Codes in Elementary Grades.

Read Chapter 3 in Galvan's book. He provides 14 steps in Selecting a Topic and Identifying Literature for Review.

Here is a short clip on selecting a topic:



What's in the Literature?
Once you have an overall topic (and these change frequently), it is time for you to review the literature in that topic and discover what has been researched.  What questions have researchers asked about this topic and what have they found through their research?  What else needs to be researched?

As Galvan noted in chapter 3, you have to review the sources you have found and look for common themes in the research.    Here is a short video that talks about research themes.  It actually addresses how your will organize your resources when you prepare to write, but it provides a useful structure for your research.


I look forward to meeting with you on Zoom in the near future so that we can discuss your decisions.

Module 3: Intro to a Literature Review


What is a literature review?  I don't think that It's like nothing you have ever written before. 

Unlike the research papers you have written so far, a literature review requires you to identify research questions that you want to explore and then find ACTUAL RESEARCH (not written opinions) that may lead you to the answers to your questions. PLEASE NOTICE that I didn't use the verb, support. Research questions are unbiased. Research questions should read "What are the effects of using social media in high school social studies courses?" NOT "What are the benefits of using social media in high school social studies courses?"
The reviewer is using these questions to explore the literature to see what has been researched to lead towards answering these questions.

You have identified a question and will search the literature for answers. Once you have reviewed the literature, you will tell your reader about what you have found. You are guiding them through the stories(research) that you have discovered on your exploration. 

Writing the Literature Review: Knowing what and why you write a literature review is important. Here is an overview by David Taylor at the University of Maryland. He is actually presenting it in the context of using the lit review as part of a larger document, but it is good description.


What IS a Literature Review
You have heard David Taylor's Description of a Literature Review.  Here is another WONDERFUL 9-minute video entitled Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students.  It is directly written for you . . . the graduate student. 

This video reveals the multiple places where a Literature Review can be found.  It can be found in the introduction of a report on research.  This literature discussion creates a foundation for the research by describing what has already been accomplished.  Some literature reviews are meant to stand alone so that a reader can acquire an overall understanding of the field.




You Are the Storyteller
The best metaphor that I have found for explaining how to write literature reviews is that of someone telling you the story of a town by telling the stories of the people who live there. A great example of such a story is Our Town. I am sure that many of you either performed-in or saw your friends/children present Our Town in high school. This is a story where the narrator takes the viewer on a tour of their town by telling stories about the people in the town. 

Watch this 1940 video of Our Town. It is a 2-hour story that you might enjoy as evening entertainment (and homework too.)  If 2-hours is too long for your busy schedule, then watch at least the first 30 minutes to get the sense of what I am saying about telling a story.

This is not just for your entertainment.  It includes telling the story of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. You might say that it is a Grover's Corners Review. As you watch this video, keep track of the "main topics" that are covered.  Look for indicators of the validity of the items discussed.  Consider how the "main topics" intertwine.   




Now Read chapters 1 and 2 of Galvan's book, Writing Literature Reviews to get an overall understanding of what a Literature Review is and how it must be written. 

Review the the Literature Reviews A & B in the back of the book as well.   The labels may vary but how does it fit the overall structure?

Return to the Assignment page to see what happens next.