Looking for an image for this post I found this one among a panoply of offers to write my literature review for me. It’s quite cheap. If I am prepared to wait for a week or two I will need to spend less than $16. It’s tempting to see what they come up with.
Nevertheless, inspired by Dr Heather Laird’s presentation yesterday morning, I have already bashed out over 800 words of the desired 1000. And I like to think that my own attempt, even in its early iteration, is likely to be better than theirs, although they have professional writers and manually proofread twice!
What we are being asked to do is entirely unlike what my daughter undertook when she was working towards her MA in Social Work. Her literature review was her dissertation. By looking at the literature, around her focus of memory books for fostered/adopted children, she had to summarise and critically analyse recent peer-reviewed publications. Finally she had to evaluate the concept of memory books: would they improve the quality of life of the looked-after children, did the making of them become too much like extra homework or, indeed, were the children emotionally damaged by these formal ties to their pasts?
Proofreading her draft, I became profoundly interested in the discussion and I thought that when her thesis was published it would become a useful tool for other social workers, especially those, like my daughter, who were working in child protection. It made me wonder whether the theses written in my own field could equal those from vocational areas. After all, of what use will my 17,000 words be to anyone? I suppose they could be accessed by a student working on the same writer and cited in their bibliography. But those words will be fun to write.
Nervous of the technology I was unwilling to start a blog when I first began at UCC in 2015, and I begged that I be allowed to present a 2,000 word research journal in hardcopy, as had students at the university in previous years. Dr Donna Alexander reposted that when she wrote one herself she had felt her undertaking to be pointless. No one, she said, read it, other than herself and her supervisor.
Blogs, on the other hand, would be peer-reviewed. I could understand her argument. And I have taken to blogging like a duck to water. I really enjoy it. But, and this is a big BUT, who is reading it? Who is peer-reviewing it?
Looking at my stats, I can see that very few people have viewed my blog. I have no comments. I have one ‘like’. That’s for nine posts! I asked Donna, who has been incredibly supportive of me, if there was a technical problem. She checked my site out and said it was working perfectly. And it’s true that I have had encouraging feedback, by email, from her, from Dr Maureen O’Connor, from Dr Anne Etienne and from Dr Heather Laird. I can hardly call them my peers! But I will plod on with the blog and hope some of my fellow postgrads read it. A comment would be welcome too although I cannot dream of any ‘likes’.
As to the literature review of the type we have to write, my partner asked me what was the point of it. In the classroom I had unkindly pointed out that the document could be nothing but a work of fantasy. By the time that the sources had actually been read, and the title redefined, many of the identified articles and chapters, chosen, possibly from contents pages and mainly by their titles, would have become irrelevant. I told him that I thought the process was designed to get us going. We should be engaging with the research now. We should be finding out what we need to read and how to organise our ideas. I know that I may need to tighten the focus of my thesis if it is not to become a sprawling and incoherent mess. I need to make progress and plan and restructure as I move through my reading.
And, of course, I really enjoyed working on the literature review. I found a piece called ‘High-Octane Ballyturk Bends it like Beckham’ and a thesis entitled ‘”Blood and the Bandage!”: Influence and Identity in the Theatre of Enda Walsh’. Both of these sound fascinating although the first is in the magazine Variety and thus likely to be rather lightweight whereas the second, although viscerally attractive, has nothing to do with what I want to write, other than it is about Enda Walsh. I am constantly aware of the pleasure I take from working on the MA in Irish Writing and Film but I know that I am rather mischievous and probably try to make too many jokes on my blog and even in my submitted essays. Luckily Enda Walsh himself is a bit of a joker so I should have fun with him!
My daughter’s literature review (unattainable)
My literature review (unattainable)
All other works cited by links
Links to last year’s blogs: