Two teenage girls sitting on the floor in a public library reading in a book
Hit those books.

The body of knowledge

To understand your problem comprehensively, we need to find out what we already know about it. There are always limits to what we know so there is always more research to be done.

It’s possible to think of knowledge as one big body.

That is, if you took everything that has ever been recorded on a topic and put it all together, you could imagine it as a single, living entity. Like any body, it can expand when we push against the limits of what we know by undertaking new research and creating new knowledge.

To protect this body, we need to guard against false, misleading or invalid knowledge, like an immune system fighting illness or disease.

When you discover something new and relevant, there is an implied obligation on you as a researcher to add to the body of knowledge by publishing your findings.

However, before your work is accepted for publication, it will be reviewed critically and methodically by experts in the field. This is a process referred to as ‘peer review.’

Reviewers are tasked with ensuring the new knowledge you present in your paper really is new. They check that it is up-to-date, accurate, reliable, valid, methodologically sound and otherwise credible. Most researchers agree that despite its flaws, peer review is still the best method we have to guard against falsehoods and poor research practices.

The literature review

A literature review is one of the first and most important tasks you’ll need to undertake. Like everything in this course, it’s not done once and then forgotten; it’s an ongoing, iterative process.

The purpose of a literature review is to induct you into the body of knowledge on your particular topic. A well undertaken literature review will give you a grounding in the big issues, debates and methods that might be used to answer your question. Reading peer-reviewed books, journal articles, conference papers or other academic communications will give you an idea of what we already know and some common or fruitful methods for finding things out and promising research areas.

To produce high quality research, you’ll need to contribute something new to the body of knowledge. You’ll also also need to ensure that you’re approaching your research with a methodology that you can defend before an expert will give you the green light to proceed with it.

Scoping out your information needs

Identifying the information that you’ll need to develop your body of knowledge is a process of figuring out:

  • what you already know
  • what you still need to know
  • how you will find this out.

You’ll need to figure this out regularly, because as you learn more, you’ll have more questions.

Brainstorming is a very effective tool to help you identify your response to these needs. Although the video below applies brainstorming to making a presentation, the fundamentals it discusses remain the same.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Your task

In this task, we’ll guide you through the process of scoping out your body of knowledge.

Open the literature review section of your portfolio and make another subsection called ‘information needs.’

Answer the following questions:

  • what do you know about your research project?
  • what do you still need to know about your research project?
  • how will you figure it out?

Leave your responses in the comments section.


SlideGenius 2015, Brainstorming Techniques

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This article is from the free online course:

Why Planning Your Research Matters

Deakin University