literature review example for research proposal

literature review example for research proposal

Importance of Literature Review in Research Proposals

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1. Introduction

Studies get replicated ad infinitum. One would like to think that this is done on purpose. Replication of a study which has the same or similar results is highly solidifying evidence. Unfortunately, this is not always the case; sometimes studies get replicated because the original study was overlooked. This is especially true for qualitative and observational data, which is often considered not being “real” research. This data is at risk of being overwritten by newer studies. The more visible and higher quality evidence a study is, the less likely it is to get lost in the sea of data available today. This again has an impact on policy and practice. And from a teaching standpoint, it wouldn’t be nice to teach something that is now considered outdated. What is education without progress? Read more on types of replication.

The more familiarity researchers are with other studies in their field, the easier it is to develop hypotheses or research questions. As well, steer the methodology in a direction where the research can be properly assessed and contribute to the current information in the field. This also gives a good opportunity to review and revise the research question before it is posted, keeping it relevant and captivating. A well-formulated question can be so useful to a student beginning to conduct a study for the first time. Any research question has a parallel question on the validity of the question. Many students will have an idea of what this means, but for a first-timer, defining what makes a good research question can be quite difficult.

Using established best practice in your proposal, using established best practice from the literature as a framework to the research, will ensure produce a research which is defensible, replicable, and applicable to policy and practice. This is important as the reader will already have an idea of possible outcomes. Also, if the study is to secure funding, giving a sense of what you will do to the funder in terms of output will make it easier to write a grant application. What you propose to do in the research will have a direct impact on an environment inside or outside academia. The more powerful change will happen with research that is closer to present day. This is because research can inform policy and practice; it is most related research that has the potential to do this. Read more about informing policy and practice. And implementing research into practice usually begins with teaching, and this is essentially what academics and educators are doing.

A pertinent, thorough, and focused literature review is a significant component of any research proposal. While there may be many reasons for conducting a literature review, following are four key outcomes of doing the review.

2. Purpose of the Literature Review

By undertaking a literature review in a research exercise, it is considered as the first and foremost act. It helps the individual to identify what has already been done in that area of interest and what have been left unexplored. It helps in formulating the research question and also serves as the impetus for the rest of the research. The researcher is able to identify the best methodologies which can be applied to the situation, and it also helps in specifying the operational definitions for the research that helps in narrowing down the type of data that is needed to be collected. This in turn ensures that resources are not wasted by doing work in area where it has already been done in the same way, and also makes sure that time is not wasted in collecting any other form of data which is not required for the research. For example if a study is being done on the correlation of job satisfaction levels of employees with their productivity, a literature review will enable the researcher an easier way to identify the specific factors which affect productivity and have been employed in previous studies. The literature review acts as an archive of collective knowledge in a particular area and also serves to make the research far more comprehensive. This is because it ensures that the researcher does not take a myopic view of the situation and is able to think on the same lines as researchers before him. It facilitates in identifying the pros and cons of various decisions and approaches that may affect the research. This is very important because often a particular approach may be a very good idea that may fail if its implementation is not carried out in a suitable manner. By knowing what others have done in a similar situation, one can learn from their past mistakes and also their successes. This will allow the researcher to integrate various ideas from the existing work and also provide a platform to compare the outcomes of his research with others. By doing this the researcher is able to have a wider perspective of the problem and is also opening doors for future research to build upon his work. In brief, literature review is done to avoid two types of failure. Type 1 error which is when a true theory is considered to be wrong. Type 2 error when a false theory is considered to be true. By the use of a literature review, a strong foundation can be laid by the researcher ensuring that there are no errors and the research is always validated.

3. Methodology for Conducting the Literature Review

Literature review is by far the most important section of any research proposal. At first, it seems to be the most boring, not more than a list of sources with a short description, but a good literature review is actually the cornerstone of good research. Many people can’t see the point of writing a literature review, but it is very important. It helps to set the research in context, let the reader know why you are doing the research and what gaps in the market it is trying to fill. It also helps to avoid unnecessary duplication of research, identifying the gaps and misconceptions in the field, and identifying possible research questions. If a literature review does all this, then it is a good one; it needs to be rich in content. A literature review is also of great value when you come to write your dissertation because you will already have a lot of the content and, of course, the references too. Writing a literature review is far from getting just a list of sources and an old essay and putting the information into your own words. A literature review needs to be analytical and should not just describe what has happened in a particular field. It should analyze the work of others, comparing and contrasting different authors, define key terms, compare theories, and find a gap in the current research. This is much more difficult task than it seems as there will be a lot of contradictory opinions in the field, so it is up to you to take an interpretation of it and convince your reader that this is what is most valid. This can be a daunting task, and as a literature review is a very open piece of writing, it is not always clear what to do. It is on many occasions the first piece of formal writing students do in this field, so some guidance would be useful, and this is where this document should come in handy, helping them through the process. For example, compare and contrast – what does this mean? What must I consider when defining something? How can I find a conceptual model? And so on…

4. Key Findings and Analysis

With regards to the quality of studies, some articles were using lower quality study designs to study an issue that is very complex. Patient safety culture is a climate that is seen to exist and is descriptive of the beliefs and attitudes of healthcare providers. Measures are difficult to develop and so with that context, there were some studies that developed surveys but did not begin to validate or refine those surveys. Other studies used surveys and administered studies on units but did analysis on the entire hospital or multiple hospitals. These studies that have a unit of analysis error would have findings that are less precise about patient safety culture and would not be able to relate the culture to the specific outcome of patient safety on that unit. An incongruence between the unit of analysis and the unit where data was collected was the common reason for unit-level studies being classified as individual level. These studies are not necessarily poor quality, but they are systematic errors that need to be understood for conducting the appropriate studies in the future.

The most common level of analysis was individual (51%). This may be due to patient safety culture being a concept and an issue beyond the understanding of culture at the organizational or unit level. It would be easier to explain the impact of patient safety culture on patient safety at the individual level because an individual acts to accomplish a result (i.e., change in patient safety due to change in behavior or attitude) and people work individually in teams to accomplish a result. Fifteen articles exclusively studied healthcare providers, which is a similar concept of studying at the individual level.

The main focus of this systematic review is to review the literature on patient safety culture from the year 2003 to 2007. The 40 articles reviewed covered topics on patient safety culture and its impact on patient safety, such as changes in behavior and attitude and the reduction of medical errors. The key findings were related to areas of patient safety culture that are most commonly studied and the study design. Most articles reviewed were published in the United States and used survey methods.

5. Conclusion and Implications

Literature review is a critical part of planning research for every subject. It is a systematic, explicit, and reproducible method for identifying, evaluating, and synthesizing the existing body of completed and recorded work produced by researchers, scholars, and practitioners. Literature review gives an opportunity for new scholars to reinforce what research to do or what not to do, better understand the subject, and provide new insights for future research that is expected to benefit society or the education field in Malaysia. A good literature review is characterized by emphasis on timeliness, full referencing, comprehensive coverage, a critical approach to the discussion, and a well-structured and argued piece. Literature review is important since it is a part of the educational process. Before conducting research in Malaysia, the Ministry of Education has clearly stated that the complete work shall not be accepted for the purpose of a Master’s Degree/PhD by research unless it contains a literature review on the study. A student should not submit their thesis before the study is completed, and they must show a good understanding of the subject researched. Failure to do so disqualifies the student, as they may misinterpret the research done on their study and give a bad impression, even if they have committed plagiarism.

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