Mapping or Writing?

To map or to write?  Hmmmm… This is an interesting question when doing your literature review.  Well – Hart in his 2002 book ‘Doing a Literature Review’ recommends it!   While his other book on doing a literature search seems less useful with rapid technology changes, I think this one is a gem.  So good I have ordered my own copy rather than get it out from the library.

As you know – I have recently I entered the world of Identity and Project Management literature in order to see what is being said out there, and to try and evolve a research problem for my MRes.   I’ll admit that reading this book was timely.

Firstly, I started on project management – I searched and found (with some difficulty I might add) some interesting papers; followed by mapping out what the authors were saying and when they said it.  I then drew various arrows from box to box to connect the ideas, and as I started to shuffle them about some insights started to emerge that I wasn’t getting just from reading alone.  Ideas certainly emerged from the mapping process itself.

Secondly, I went to the identity studies side – well this was much more difficult as many more people have written much more about the topic from many philosophical perspectives.  Nevertheless, I continued to map out the seminal articles as I found them, and started to tease out the debates in academic thought.  Frankly, before no time the map became unmanageable.  I think due to the volume of the boxes I was actually starting to lose the thread.  Eventually I found a critical path and I noticed using colours was helping.  Note though that these maps were still separate!

I tried to lower the expectations on completing a lit. review chapter by mid april, but when I mentioned this to my supervisor I was told – I was told to stop mapping and start writing!

So I purchased Scrivener (thanks Jeffrey for the tip), and started to write topic by topic, subject by subject, yet informed from my mapping and my note taking during reading.

What is pretty cool using the Scrivener software is how the tree structure and the fragments can be moved around in Scrivener so your structure and content kind of evolves together.  The really really (yes I did put really in twice) weird thing was how the word count little by little just kept building up…. When you are writing in small fragments 250 words or so, it takes no time to accumulate :o)

Personally, I have found mapping to be pretty useful – to a point, and writing in Scrivener also productive.  So good bye to Microsoft word as a writing tool – its now relegated to formatting.

The only small complaint I have with scrivener is how to insert and manage references.  I use Mendeley, and I saw no option to embed references as you go…. that’s a bummer.  However, as I have had trouble writing in the past – I see it as a lesser of the two evils.

PS. Lit. Review Chapter with these tools emerged out of thin air and I submitted it early!  Why don’t you give them a go?

Hart, C., 2002. Doing a Literature Review, SAGE Publications.

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