Writing Problem Statements and Literature Reviews

Statement of the Problem

Your first chapter will give a brief background to contextualize and problematize your research question(s). It will end with a statement of your research questions.

The net effect of your problem statement should be that readers

Statements of Problem.pdf

Writing Literature Reviews

The literature review should do work for your study. However, there are various kinds of work it might do. It should:
  1. Convince the reader that you know the relevant literature.
    • Assume that some readers do know all the relevant literature. This assumption will ensure that you at least acknowledge literature that you will not rely on heavily but that others might think is germane to your topic, thereby satisfying the knowledgeable reader that you are at least aware of it
    • Assume also that other readers know little about the relevant literature. This assumption will focus your attention on the literature that you do rely on, thus helping less knowledgeable readers understand the intellectual context for your study.
  2. Build an intellectual framework for your study.
    • Explicate important constructs that you will draw upon or employ in your study
    • Explain results from studies that have important implications for your study
  3. Help readers understand how your present work connects to and builds upon the work of others.

This third point is important. You can do a good or poor job of it, and the job you do is strongly shaped by how you construct your citations. There are three ways to cite other work:

Other Resources

Finally, Keith Leatham wrote an excellent commentary on citation practices that covers other issues than those listed here. See:

Leatham, K. (2015). Observations on citation practices in mathematics education research. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 46(3), 253-269.

Document IconLeatham-2015-Observations on citation practice.pdf