Home Up Library CD ROM Computer Logic Introduction Literature Procedures Sampling

Research Design in Occupational Education
Copyright 1997. James P. Key. Oklahoma State University
Except for those materials which are supplied by different departments of the University
(ex. IRB, Thesis Handbook) and references used by permission.






Practical and Theoretical Reasoning

All possible sources (books, periodical, graduate studies, ERIC, and others) should be thoroughly searched to find information to establish the practical reasoning underlying the problem. Opinion articles, speeches, reports of conferences, and all other types of written material may be used to establish the reasoning base and research studies. After adequately establishing an information base, classify the material into information directly and indirectly related to the problem.

Example: Suppose the problem dealt with teaching handicapped and disadvantages students in a vocational program. All material dealing with teaching the handicapped and disadvantaged vocational programs would be directly related, while information on general education for the handicapped and disadvantaged would be indirectly related.

After classifying and sorting the material, use your experience and ideas from the literature to relate these statements into the practical logic showing the circumstances or factors creating the problem, the importance and usefulness of the study, and any other practical considerations which should be studied.

The same approach should be used for gathering information to establish the theoretical basis of the study. Ask such questions as:

What body of knowledge am I dealing with?
What are the primary theories on which I am basing my assumptions and research objectives, questions, or hypotheses on?
Am I trying to build support for a particular theory or does the theory support the approach I am taking?
Have I adequately supported the "why" of my problem with theory?

The theoretical basis should be developed into logical reasoning utilizing paraphrased statements, quotes, and linking ideas from your experience and literature.



Similar Research

The search of the literature for research which has been done on the problem will be limited to research studies as opposed to the variety of sources available for the practical and theoretical literature. A search for studies already conducted might eliminate the need for your study. If it has already been accomplished, your study would be unnecessary duplication unless you question the findings or wish to establish greater validity for those findings.

The statement is frequently made is "I can’t find any studies that have been done like mine." Most of the time, the search has been too narrow. You will probably not find a follow-up study of students in basketweaving in Fastwater County. However, you may find many follow-up studies of students in crocheting, mumbly peg, or similar subjects in many different counties. Those studies are valuable to you and related to your study even though they are not just like or the exact subject you are studying.

From these studies you can get ideas about any pitfalls to avoid or results which support or contradict your objectives, questions, or hypotheses. Paraphrase or quote the latest study and then mention that this finding was supported or not supported by other studies. At times it may be helpful to cite studies supporting an idea as well as studies not supporting an idea, and then give your reasoning on the subject.

Similar studies are useful for giving ideas about methods or instruments that can be used. However, just because another person did it that way does not mean it is the best way. Be creative and choose the best approach from among alternatives you can find or create.

If you are using a standardized instrument, a section of the review should support the validity and reliability and describe the advantages and limitations of the instrument. This could be included in either the Review of Literature or Methodology section.

If you are using a questionnaire or interview schedule, you may be able to construct an instrument by taking the best ideas of the instruments from similar studies and combining them with your own ideas. It is not advisable to use another person’s instrument in its entirety. It can usually be improved.

The principle of exhaustiveness requires a search of as many sources of information as possible when beginning the review. However, a thorough evaluation should be conducted of the gathered information. Only the information relevant to the study that supports the practical or theoretical reasoning or describes similar research on the problem should be included. Irrelevant references to pad the review should be omitted. The review should present a clear and concise picture, not a list of studies or ideas loosely connected with wordage.


Quote or Paraphrase

Quote only those statements which the original author stated so clearly and concisely that they cannot be improved upon or which might lose their original meaning through paraphrasing. Several quotes interspersed might be justified, but extensive quoting should generally be avoided.

Paraphrasing is putting the original author’s ideas in your own words to be more brief or concise and show the relationship of the original idea to other ideas or the problem. Care should be exercised to avoid changing the original meaning. Paraphrased ideas need to be cited like quotes but do not require page numbers.



The review should be organized into sections either by subject matter headings or by reasoning and research sections. The organization of the review should be explained at the beginning to provide a guide. This organization should help the review of literature to give a clear and concise picture of what has been written and done about the problem.

Blending of ideas means smoothly connecting ideas rather than simply listing a series of statements, quotes, or findings without connecting them to tell a story or describe a situation. Ideas from your experience, literature, or statements relating the citations to the problem should be used to blend the ideas within and between sections. Transition words, sentences, and paragraphs greatly aid this blending.

The review should be an objective reporting of what has been written or done about the problem to avoid any researcher bias. Third person past tense should be used when referring to articles or studies since they were all written in the past.

The present tense can be used when referring to universal truths. Such references to the researcher’s opinion like "the researcher thinks" or "it is the researcher’s opinion" should be used very limitedly if at all to avoid researcher bias. "It was reported that . . ." or "Guizberg stated that . . ." are preferred.

A concise summary of the review is very valuable. It gives the reader a brief but complete picture of the major ideas and findings included in the review. It also aids the reader in seeing the overall picture more easily without getting lost in the details of the review. Writing the summary forces you to ask "what did the literature really say about my problem?"

Common questions include: "When is my review of literature complete?" and "When do I have enough?" You cannot possibly find or include everything that has been written about your subject. However, you should be satisfied that you have adequately sampled all important literature dealing with the problem. In addition, your advisor and/or committee will help you judge whether the review is complete.

One of the main purposes of the review of literature is to provide a basis for the research objectives, questions, or hypotheses. The knowledge of what has been said and done about the problem better enables you to write more adequate research questions since it may reveal gaps in knowledge or reveal questions which need answering. It also provides criteria upon which to build purposeful objectives. That knowledge is what makes a hypothesis an educated guess rather than just a wild guess. Because of this, the review of literature should be written before the introductory chapter because it provides much information necessary to build the introduction and base the research objectives, questions, and hypotheses.



To assess your ability to accomplish the objectives, write the review of literature following these guidelines. Consider the following criteria.

Provides Reasoning Establishing the Problem

Practical basis included

Theoretical basis included

Describes Research Done on the Problem

Methods covered

Instruments sought

Important results brought out

Pitfalls discovered

Important Ideas Selected

Paraphrasing or Quoting Appropriate

Well Organized

Divided into sections

Blended thought trains

Well Summarized


Used to Develop Research Objectives, Questions

Home Up Library CD ROM Computer Logic Introduction Literature Procedures Sampling