Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Framework for the lit review

I think the most difficult part of writing the literature review was finding a framework to hold everything together. You see it is kind of easy to wander off when you write a long literature review on something you know quite a bit. On the one hand you want to display your knowledge. On the other hand you want your readers to be able to follow what you are saying and understand how everything you present fits together. I think finding this balance is a challenging task. It is difficult to figure out how much background knowledge you can assume on your readers part and how much you have to explain. English being a writer responsible language Turkish being quite the opposite makes things even worse. I sometimes feel like I explain things to death like I'm explaining everything as if I'm explaining it to a teenager with an attention span of five minutes. All the while I feel like what I write is an insult to human intellect in general and my readers' intelligence in particular (:-P) only to realize after some feedback that sometimes my writing is still not so clear for an American audience.
Then I sigh, roll my eyes, and after a face palm gesture explain myself yet again a little more in my revisions. I'm sure sometimes my writing is equally frustrating for the readers. Anyway, this mismatch makes the revision stage regarding clarity very very very very dull and boring for me. At this stage I feel like all my excitement and enthusiasm about what I wanted to say are sucked out of me. But what are you gonna do but comply. To this day I've failed to find a middle ground that would make both parties happy. Coming back to framework, I found that sticking to some form of structure for the literature review helps to keep things easier for the reader to follow. Repetition and advance organizers help too. I cannot claim that I've mastered how to do this but I will share my experience anyway.
I was reading and reading and reading some research and review articles related to my research questions. In November, I believe, my husband and I were sitting at a cafe near the Black Sea each of us working on our own stuff. Then suddenly it came to me and I said "3 Ps Positioning, practice, participation" My husband looked at me trying to understand what I was talking about. I said never mind me I just had an epiphany. My point is that in my case that structure came to me suddenly. It strikes me as odd that in second language writing research, writer epiphanies like this one do not appear in research articles. I don't remember reading anything like it anywhere. These epiphanies happen to me quite often and I refuse to believe that it happens only to me. Well I guess there is always the possibility that I'm the one who is odd. The thing is while revising for clarity is the most dreadful thing, these epiphanies are the ectatic moments of writing. Those moments are what makes writing like puzzle solving and enjoyable. It's a shame that this part of writing is not investigated more often. I'm sure we are all sick and tired of reading papers on feedback and revisions. I don't want to offend anyone who finds this topic interesting. What can I say. Good for them. I just feel like some variety is good for the soul and the field.
Anyway, my framework consisted of three sections: one on identity, one on academic literacy, and one on disciplinary socialization. I had one metaphor for each section. I find metaphors quite fascinating. I always have. It is amazing how each discipline has at least one for the phenomena it studies. There metaphors are usually invisible to people from inside but it is THE first thing I recognize when I start reading the work in a discipline new to me. I remember this recognition happening when I took classes in other fields the first time, like anthropological linguistics, corpus linguistics, second language acquisition linguistics, etc. Interestingly I do not have a metaphor in mind for second language writing. Can it be that there is a metaphor but it is invisible to me because I'm too close? Or maybe there is not one yet, SLW is a new discipline after all. Does the lack of a metaphor say something about the maturity of the field? I'm not sure. Of course, metaphors are not the only markers of a field. There are other things. I also recognize the angels and demons of each field when I enter a discipline for the first time. There are also the sacred texts and other stuff too. But that's not what I was talking about. Let's get back to literature review, shall we?
from my research journal

I prepared matrices as you can partially see in the photo and considered several things I could write for each section. The metaphor with P was one of them. In the end I settled for a parallel outline for each of the three sections. General intro for each of the three, populations studied, theoretical orientations, research methods, general concepts, general assumptions in these three fields. I tried to explain how my study fit in and could contribute to the disciplinary conversations and how the literature illuminated my study. This makes sense to me but I will wait until I hear from my adviser. This is just the first draft and I bet there will be lots of changes before I see the end of this.
Below is the intro to my lit review section. What do you think? I'm curious about how you go about writing the literature review.
3 Ps—Positioning, Practice, and Participation: A literature review

In this chapter, I give an overview of three strands of research that inform this project: identity, academic literacies, and academic discourse socialization. Despite their differences, ultimately, these three areas examine the interactions between the individual, the text, and the context, as each emerges and interacts with each other. Thus, even though here I present these three areas under different subheadings for convenience and because, for the most part, they are rooted in different disciplines, the research studies that explore questions relevant to all three areas, like the present study, suggest that their domains overlap. To give a couple of examples of studies exploring the intersection of these areas, identity and academic literacies have been studied by Hawkins (2005), Taylor and Cummins (2011), and Moje, Luke, Davies, and Street (2009); identity and academic discourse socialization have been investigated by Barnawi (2009), Duff (2008), Ivanič (1998), and Morita (2004); and, academic literacies and academic discourse socialization have been examined by researchers like Duff (2010), Lee and Maguire (2011), and Seloni (2008).
Despite having overlapping domains, the focus of identity studies, literacy studies, and discourse socialization research differ in their primary focus. Whereas the main concern of identity studies is the question what does the text say about the author compared to and for others, academic literacies research focuses primarily on how academic literacies are learned and practiced. Finally, academic disciplinary socialization research examines how newcomers to an academic discipline become part of their discourse communities and what the individuals and texts say about the discourse community. It can be argued that despite their similar interests these three areas work with different metaphors: positioning in the case of identity studies (Ivanič & Camps, 2001; Norton & Toohey, 2011),[1] practice in the case of literacy studies (Jones Diaz, 2007; Street, 1985), and participation for academic discourse socialization research (Duff, 2007; Morita, 2004). Since the present study touches on issues related to academic identity, literacy practices, and disciplinary socialization, I review the literature on identity, academic literacies, and academic discourse socialization relevant to the research questions investigated in this study. In this section, my aim is two fold 1) to explain how this project fits in and draws on three research areas in terms of research site, theoretical orientation, research methods, and fundamental assumptions, and 2) to suggest how this project can enter various disciplinary conversations in these disciples by contributing to the refinement of concepts and the solutions of persistent disciplinary puzzles.

[1] See Moje, Luke, Davies, & Street (2009) for a survey of various metaphors for identity.

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