Saturday, June 2, 2012

How do you begin research? The Literature Review

Don’t be shocked but the research that you will be doing soon in your grad school, or at least the methodology, may be quite different than what you would have expected when you were a prospective grad students applying in number of schools. Imagining yourself surrounded with alien instruments may become reality for physics or other pure science students but not necessarily true for engineering and other students. Doing research does not always involve use of cutting edge technology but always means finding something new, involve analyzing some data, and reaching to some conclusions. A research may be as specific as solving some particular existing problem or somewhat broader. In any case, the research begins with the study of existing papers in the related subject.

I am sure most of the prospective grad students would not have noticed that the reviewing the existing literature constitute a significant portion of a research. Obvious reason for that is they have never done any research so far. So reading literatures might be first big surprise to them. So let me write a little about the first stage of the research.

According to Lyman and Varian (2000) every year about one or two exabytes of unique information is produced which is about 250 megabytes per person. So we don’t want to produce any duplicate data which is one of the reason why we do literature review. But more important reason of literature review is to plan on how to conduct that particular research.

Good thing about literature review part is if you have access to the internet then you can do it from anywhere around the globe.There are tons of papers available online for free or paid. So if you are applying to any grad school and you want to impress your future professor then you may consider reviewing some literatures related to research field of your choice and sent it to the professor. However professors are in general very busy and may not read your review but even knowing the fact that prospective student have sent a literature review is likely to have some good impact on the student. Below I have listed some of the websites to where you can get journals online:

Science Direct
Mendeley
TRB
ASCE Library

Oh! How can I forget the almighty google? But this time its scholar.google.com rather than normal google site. Believe me the results of google.com are nowhere as close as of scholar.google.com. So if you try to find any paper from google.com, you will have to search for ages.

At last, once again I am advising you guys to start searching some journals of the field of your interest and start learning how literature review part is done and how you researches are conducted. I am sure it will be fruitful for all prospective as well as current graduate student.

References:
Lyman, P. and H.R. Varian, How Much Information?, University of California, School of Information Management and Systems, 2000


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