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How to Absorb the Literature In order to make an original contribution to the knowledge in your field you have to first know the literature You do not of course want to design a study that has already been conducted unless your intention is to replicate the study But to know the literature relevant to your research area you have to read it There may be only a few sources that are really important or there may literally be dozens or even hundreds of relevant articles and books If there are many how can you absorb them all in a reasonably short time One way is to read according to the need Freeman and Reed as cited in Walliman 2001 suggest the following reading techniques suitable for different purposes Skimming Scanning Reading to understand Word by word reading Skimming is helpful to quickly determine if a source is likely to be helpful The title provides the first clue If you re dealing with a journal article and it has an abstract read it For a book look at the table of contents An easy way to accomplish this is to go to Amazon call up the book you want to check and use the Search inside the book tool which usually shows a table of contents You should develop the skill of determining the relevance of a work in a few minutes If the article or book seems pertinent categorize it as being helpful as an overview or as a concrete study of some aspect of your research question or both Jot down the full citation of the work and label it broad or specific or both If it is a journal article print it out or download it Scanning is useful when you are searching for an important point or key word You ignore everything except the one thing you are looking for One use for scanning is to locate the major authorities on the subject of interest If an author continually appears in the reference sections of the articles and books you have collected you must include him her in your own literature review Reading to understand is appropriate when you want to learn the major facts what

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