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Online Literature Review:

'Critical Reading Skills for Students; an evolving literature review'


How to use this site:


Each week, I update the evolving essay and add a blog reflection to go with the update.

Scroll down for the link to the evolving literature review and blog reflections. 

Please feel free to make comments on the literature via my blog page.



Brief biography:


So, who am I?  I'm a female student from a working class background who is the first in her family to attempt higher education.  I have an undergraduate degree in Education Studies and a Master's degree in Education, Policy and Society.  I have recently started a full time PHD.  How did I make this journey?  By drawing on practical study skills to enable me a way into my studies - this is in turn started a process of me taking ownership of my work and feeling inspired to keep going.



Initial thoughts


Having now undertaken four literature reviews, I feel I have some sense of their purpose!  If I had to sum up this in a sentence it would be something like:


‘The purpose of a literature review is to locate my research within the field of existing relevant research literature’. 


Or, in other words, the aim of a literature review is to show the wider academic community that I know about the areas relating to my topic and I am also able to see how my topic is situated within and relevant to these areas.  This may sound a bit abstract, but actually it can be very practical; it’s a matter, in part, of justifying your work and the relevance of it within the field you are interested in.




When I first saw this topic I thought what I tend always think at the outset of starting to write something new; how much do I know about this topic and how much do I need to find out?  Whilst this may seem an obvious starting point, it is an extremely useful one; it allows me to get an idea of roughly how much reading and research I may need to do in order to be able to complete the task.  So, to decide on this, I did an initial brainstorm:



Brainstorm - why reading strategies?


  • Because of:


    • Policy context


      • Having recently completed an MA in Education, Policy and Society, I have particular interest in policy.  However, arguably locating research within the wider policy context is a useful way to frame a research study as it gives the reader an indication of any relevant legislation and its potential outcomes.


    • Non – traditional students


      • In light of recent legislation by New Labour to widen participation, there has been an increase of non traditional’ students, a term used “as shorthand for students from under-represented groups” (Medway, Rhodes, Macrae, Maguire & Gerwirtz’s 2003, p.3).  Given the increase in numbers of this type of student, there is arguably a need to consider how these new higher education stakeholders manage the demands of university, particularly in terms of their study skills, of which reading is of key importance.


    • The power of the text


      • It seems to me that within the context of higher education, the text book is viewed as the all powerful medium for knowledge transmission.  Therefore, it seems necessary to unpick the power of the text, particularly in terms of uncovering strategies that will allow students to tap into their reading. 


    • The role of coursework


      • During the last 10-15 years there has been an increase in the volume of coursework students are expected to complete.  This shift away from exam based assessment towards coursework tends to require more demonstrable evidence of reading, and therefore, there is an increased need for students to develop their critical reading strategies.


    • Over assessed?


      • There have been lots of arguments in recent years about the over assessment of all students, particularly those in higher education.  It seems that students have to do increasing amounts of work, particularly coursework which tends to be in the form of an essay or report, and therefore, it seems essential for students to engage with more reading to meet their assessment and coursework deadlines.


    • Teaching provision


      • The pressure on tutors to teach a module over 11 weeks can put students under extreme pressure.  The gradual decrease in teaching hours generally puts onus on students to undertake critical reading independently; thus, reduced teaching provision means that students’ need to understand their reading is of the utmost importance.




      • No further comment needed here!  



Having brainstormed the literature review title, I have broken the overall topic down into some key sub areas.  This has enabled me to come up with the following draft headings and an initial outline of what will be considered within those headings.  The draft structure, will no doubt, change several times as I read and consider new ideas, concepts and arguments which will evolve the literature review.  However, starting with a draft structure is useful as it allows me to focus on the key areas I want to cover, and will also help to keep my writing on track.


You can click here for my January blog link.



Click here to access the first draft of my evolving literature review


Click here to access my second draft of the literature review


Click here to access my third draft of the literature review


Click this link to access my fourth draft of the literature review







Each month, as I upload the next installments of the literature review. 


Click here for my January blog link. 


Click here for my February blog link.


Click here for my second February blog link.


Click here for my third February blog link


Click here for my forth February blog link


Click here for my March blog link


Click here for my first April blog link 


Click here for my second April blog link


Click here for my third April blog link


Click here for my first May blog link 


Click here for my first July blog link


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