Finding new literature for the review: the snowball effect

Gah. Every time I think I’ve collected all I can about my subject I find I’ve not checked the usual journals for a while and BAM! There’s a whole new section for my subject opening up in front of me. It’s known as the snowball effect, I think. You find you’ve not substantiated something with enough literature so you look online at a journal article and BAM! On the side link is another article that someone else has read, so you look at that and BAM! There’s another one that’s relevant. And then you switch journals and BAM! A whole new avalanche of material hits you. At times I feel I’m suffocating under the weight of all that snow.

The challenge is accept that, yes, there is lots new stuff out there that looks WAY interesting and everything, but I can’t include it all in this thesis. In the words of Elsa, Let It Go. (Sorry, references to Frozen will continue unabated until that darned ear-worm dies.)

However, my current challenge is to update my literature. In the last 5 years since I began the project, lots of work is being done by a number of good folk in the UK and Australia that supports my findings in some way or another. Granted, we’re all doing this using startlingly different approaches but the ideas are similar. So I’m doing a last sweep of the literature, basing my search around the conservatoire and one-to-one teaching. I’ve found at least 8 articles to support the literature I currently have. Of course, I just found a review of a singer’s practical guide book about European opera houses and culture I probably need to read. Bugger, if I’d only looked sooner.

This is what happens when one takes time off one’s study to do other stuff like LIVE. Now, the next thing to do is read the bloody stuff then weave their work into my review. I have a specific approach to selecting an article to read. I read the Abstract to decide if it’s important, then I do a super-quick sweep of the article online to get a feel for the study. I scan the conclusion. Then, if it passes all those checks I download the article to read again later. Takes me about 5 minutes to do each one, but this gives me the breathing room to actually read the articles in a bunch and get on with writing in the meantime.

I organise the writing and reading as different activities done at different times. Examples of my reading and note taking are below: my notes on actual books are usually sticky-notes with one word added to make sense for me later. In the case of the Rogoff book – which I own – I read through the ENTIRE book taking notes. Then, I write the section on cultural psychology, I look through my notes for cues.


The writing phase for me is one of  stream-of-consciousness style. I just get stuff out of my head, then I decide – usually much later on – if it’s worth keeping in the document. My first draft is hilarious. My second not much better. But as my ideas coalesce I am then able to see where my thoughts and ideas match the research and what I am trying to say. I’ve been doing massive sweeps of my work and I’m almost at the reading-out-loud phase, which helps to identify areas that make no sense, lack flow or lack substantiation.

Anyway, DH arrived home this morning which interrupted my sleep and therefore my flow today. I’ve taken the opportunity instead to get the articles I needed and write this. Now it’s back the flow state. Ciao!




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