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A practical guide to research writing – chapter two.

Historically, Chapter Two of every academic Research/Project Write up has been Literature Review, and this position has not changed. When preparing your write up for this Chapter, you can title it “Review of Related Literature” or just “Literature Review”.

This is the chapter where you provide detailed explanation of previous researches that has been conducted on your topic of interest. The previous studies that must be selected for this chapter must be academic work/articles published in an internationally reputable journal.

Also, the selected articles must not be more than 10 years old (article publication date to project writing date). For better organization, it has been generally accepted that the arrangement for a good literature review write up follows this order:

2.0     Introduction

2.1     Conceptual Review

2.2     Theoretical Framework

2.3     Empirical review

Summary of Literature/Research Gap


This serves as the preamble to the chapter alone or preliminary information on the chapter. All the preliminary information that should be provided here should cover just this chapter alone because the project already has a general introduction which is chapter one. It should only reflect the content of this chapter. This is why the introduction for literature review is sometimes optional.

Basically here, you should describe the contents of the chapter in few words



This section can otherwise be titled “Conceptual Framework”. It must capture all explanations on the concepts that are associated with your research topic in logical order. For example, if your research topic is “A study of the effect of advertisement on firm sales”, your conceptual framework can best follow this order:

2.1     Conceptual Framework

2.1.1  Advertisement        Types of Advertisement      Advantages of Advertisement

2.1.2  Concept of Firm Sales        Factor determining Firm Sales

These concepts must be defined and described from the historical point of view. Topical works and prevailing issues globally, in your continent and nation on the concepts should be presented here. You must be able to provide clear information here that there should be no ambiguity about the variables you are studying.


This can be otherwise titled “Theoretical Review”. This section should contain all previous professional theories and models that have provided explanations on your research topic in the recent past. Yes, related theories and models also falls within the category of past literature for your research write up. Professional theories that are most relevant to your topic should be separately arranged in this section, as seen in the example below:

2.2.1  Jawkwish Theory of Performance

2.2.2  Interstitial Theory of Ranking

2.2.3  Grusse Theory of Social Learning

But the most important thing to note while writing this part is that, apart from making sure that you must do a thorough research and ensure that the most relevant theories for your research topic is selected, your theoretical review must capture some important points which should better reflect in this order for each model:

The proponent of the theory/model, title and year of publication, aim/purpose/structure of the theory, contents and arguments of the theory, findings and conclusions of the theory, criticisms and gaps of the theory, and finally the relevance of the theory to your current research topic.


Best Research Writing eBook

Academic project or thesis or dissertation writing is not an easy academic endeavor. To reach your goal, you must invest time, effort, and a strong desire to succeed. Writing a thesis while also juggling other course work is challenging, but it doesn't have to be an unpleasant process. A dissertation or thesis is one of the most important requirements for any degree, and this book will show you how to create a good research write-up from a high level of abstraction, making your research writing journey much easier. It also includes examples of how and what the contents of each sub-headings should look like for easy research writing. This book will also constitute a step-by-step research writing guide to scholars in all research fields.


This can be otherwise titled “Empirical Framework”. This is usually described as the critical review of the existing academic works/literature on your research topic. This can be organized or arranged in two different alternative ways when developing your write up:

  • It can be arranged in a table with heading arranged horizontally in this order: Author name and initials, year and title of publication, aim/objectives, methodology, findings, conclusions, recommendations, research gap. Responses for the above should be provided in spaces provided below in the table for up to 40 articles at least.
  • The second option excludes the use of tables but still contains the same information exactly as above for tables. The information is provided in thematic text format with appropriate in-text references. Note that all these points to be included can be directly gotten from the articles except the research gap which requires your critical thinking. Your research gap must identify an important thing(s) the previous research has not done well or not done at all, which your current research intends to do. Although, you should criticize, but constructively while acknowledging areas of perfections and successes of the authors.

Note that every research you critically review must have evident/obvious gaps that your research intends to fill.


This is the concluding part of every literature review write up. It provides the summary of the entire content of the whole Chapter. Sometimes, some institutions require that you bring the analysis of all the gaps of the existing literature under review here. Conclusions on the whole existing literature under review should briefly be highlighted in this section.

I trust that this article will help undergraduates and postgraduate researchers in writing a very good Literature Review for your Research/Project/Paper/Thesis, and will also meet the needs of our esteemed readers who has been requesting for a guide on how to write their Chapter Two (Literature Review).

Enjoy, as you develop a good Literature Review for your research!


please i want to understand how to write a project. tutorial available?

thanks so now am able to write the chapter two of the research

Thank you for the article,it really guide and educate.

Thank you so much for this vital information which serve as a guide to me in respect to my chapter 2. With so much hope and interest this piece of information will pass across other researchers.

Very helpful, thanks for sharing this for free.

This is fantastic, I commend you for the well job done, this guiedline is so much useful for me, you’ve indeed light up my path to write a good literature review of chapter 2

I Have a doctoral dissertation research and I want to understand the help you can offer for me to move forward. Thanks.

It was indeed helpful. Thanks.

This is helpful

Good it serves a lecture delivered by notable Prof

Very helpful, thanks for be present,

Sir, am confused a bit am writing on the role of social media in creating political awareness and mobilizing political protests (in Nigeria). How my going to do conceptual framework. Thanks

Thanks for educating me better

Thank you so much, the detailed explanation has given me more courage to attain my first class degree, all the way from Gulu Uganda.

Really helpful. Thank you for this.

Sure this page realy guide me on chapter two big thanks i will request more when the need arise

thank you for this article but is this the only option for writing a chapter two for an undergraduate degree project?

Very helpful

Weldone and kudos to you guys

Thanks a lot this has surely helped me in moving ahead in my project

Thanks for this piece of information I really appreciate ✨

Pls how will i see the preamble in my journal or am i going to write it offhand

First of all thanks for the informations provided above. I want to ask is the nature and element of research also included in this chapter

Need proof reading help

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Research Methods

Chapter 2 introduction.

Maybe you have already gained some experience in doing research, for example in your bachelor studies, or as part of your work.

The challenge in conducting academic research at masters level, is that it is multi-faceted.

The types of activities are:

  • Finding and reviewing literature on your research topic;
  • Designing a research project that will answer your research questions;
  • Collecting relevant data from one or more sources;
  • Analyzing the data, statistically or otherwise, and
  • Writing up and presenting your findings.

Some researchers are strong on some parts but weak on others.

We do not require perfection. But we do require high quality.

Going through all stages of the research project, with the guidance of your supervisor, is a learning process.

The journey is hard at times, but in the end your thesis is considered an academic publication, and we want you to be proud of what you have achieved!

Probably the biggest challenge is, where to begin?

  • What will be your topic?
  • And once you have selected a topic, what are the questions that you want to answer, and how?

In the first chapter of the book, you will find several views on the nature and scope of business research.

Since a study in business administration derives its relevance from its application to real-life situations, an MBA typically falls in the grey area between applied research and basic research.

The focus of applied research is on finding solutions to problems, and on improving (y)our understanding of existing theories of management.

Applied research that makes use of existing theories, often leads to amendments or refinements of these theories. That is, the applied research feeds back to basic research.

In the early stages of your research, you will feel like you are running around in circles.

You start with an idea for a research topic. Then, after reading literature on the topic, you will revise or refine your idea. And start reading again with a clearer focus ...

A thesis research/project typically consists of two main stages.

The first stage is the research proposal .

Once the research proposal has been approved, you can start with the data collection, analysis and write-up (including conclusions and recommendations).

Stage 1, the research proposal consists of he first three chapters of the commonly used five-chapter structure :

  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • An introduction to the topic.
  • The research questions that you want to answer (and/or hypotheses that you want to test).
  • A note on why the research is of academic and/or professional relevance.
  • Chapter 2: Literature
  • A review of relevant literature on the topic.
  • Chapter 3: Methodology

The methodology is at the core of your research. Here, you define how you are going to do the research. What data will be collected, and how?

Your data should allow you to answer your research questions. In the research proposal, you will also provide answers to the questions when and how much . Is it feasible to conduct the research within the given time-frame (say, 3-6 months for a typical master thesis)? And do you have the resources to collect and analyze the data?

In stage 2 you collect and analyze the data, and write the conclusions.

  • Chapter 4: Data Analysis and Findings
  • Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

This video gives a nice overview of the elements of writing a thesis.

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Project Chapter Two: Literature Review and Steps to Writing Empirical Review

Writing an Empirical Review

Kindly share this story:

  • Conceptual review
  • Theoretical review,
  • Empirical review or review of empirical works of literature/studies, and lastly
  • Conclusion or Summary of the literature reviewed.
  • Decide on a topic
  • Highlight the studies/literature that you will review in the empirical review
  • Analyze the works of literature separately.
  • Summarize the literature in table or concept map format.
  • Synthesize the literature and then proceed to write your empirical review.

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Chapter 2. Research Design

Getting started.

When I teach undergraduates qualitative research methods, the final product of the course is a “research proposal” that incorporates all they have learned and enlists the knowledge they have learned about qualitative research methods in an original design that addresses a particular research question. I highly recommend you think about designing your own research study as you progress through this textbook. Even if you don’t have a study in mind yet, it can be a helpful exercise as you progress through the course. But how to start? How can one design a research study before they even know what research looks like? This chapter will serve as a brief overview of the research design process to orient you to what will be coming in later chapters. Think of it as a “skeleton” of what you will read in more detail in later chapters. Ideally, you will read this chapter both now (in sequence) and later during your reading of the remainder of the text. Do not worry if you have questions the first time you read this chapter. Many things will become clearer as the text advances and as you gain a deeper understanding of all the components of good qualitative research. This is just a preliminary map to get you on the right road.


Research Design Steps

Before you even get started, you will need to have a broad topic of interest in mind. [1] . In my experience, students can confuse this broad topic with the actual research question, so it is important to clearly distinguish the two. And the place to start is the broad topic. It might be, as was the case with me, working-class college students. But what about working-class college students? What’s it like to be one? Why are there so few compared to others? How do colleges assist (or fail to assist) them? What interested me was something I could barely articulate at first and went something like this: “Why was it so difficult and lonely to be me?” And by extension, “Did others share this experience?”

Once you have a general topic, reflect on why this is important to you. Sometimes we connect with a topic and we don’t really know why. Even if you are not willing to share the real underlying reason you are interested in a topic, it is important that you know the deeper reasons that motivate you. Otherwise, it is quite possible that at some point during the research, you will find yourself turned around facing the wrong direction. I have seen it happen many times. The reason is that the research question is not the same thing as the general topic of interest, and if you don’t know the reasons for your interest, you are likely to design a study answering a research question that is beside the point—to you, at least. And this means you will be much less motivated to carry your research to completion.

Researcher Note

Why do you employ qualitative research methods in your area of study? What are the advantages of qualitative research methods for studying mentorship?

Qualitative research methods are a huge opportunity to increase access, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Qualitative research allows us to engage and examine the uniquenesses/nuances within minoritized and dominant identities and our experiences with these identities. Qualitative research allows us to explore a specific topic, and through that exploration, we can link history to experiences and look for patterns or offer up a unique phenomenon. There’s such beauty in being able to tell a particular story, and qualitative research is a great mode for that! For our work, we examined the relationships we typically use the term mentorship for but didn’t feel that was quite the right word. Qualitative research allowed us to pick apart what we did and how we engaged in our relationships, which then allowed us to more accurately describe what was unique about our mentorship relationships, which we ultimately named liberationships ( McAloney and Long 2021) . Qualitative research gave us the means to explore, process, and name our experiences; what a powerful tool!

How do you come up with ideas for what to study (and how to study it)? Where did you get the idea for studying mentorship?

Coming up with ideas for research, for me, is kind of like Googling a question I have, not finding enough information, and then deciding to dig a little deeper to get the answer. The idea to study mentorship actually came up in conversation with my mentorship triad. We were talking in one of our meetings about our relationship—kind of meta, huh? We discussed how we felt that mentorship was not quite the right term for the relationships we had built. One of us asked what was different about our relationships and mentorship. This all happened when I was taking an ethnography course. During the next session of class, we were discussing auto- and duoethnography, and it hit me—let’s explore our version of mentorship, which we later went on to name liberationships ( McAloney and Long 2021 ). The idea and questions came out of being curious and wanting to find an answer. As I continue to research, I see opportunities in questions I have about my work or during conversations that, in our search for answers, end up exposing gaps in the literature. If I can’t find the answer already out there, I can study it.

—Kim McAloney, PhD, College Student Services Administration Ecampus coordinator and instructor

When you have a better idea of why you are interested in what it is that interests you, you may be surprised to learn that the obvious approaches to the topic are not the only ones. For example, let’s say you think you are interested in preserving coastal wildlife. And as a social scientist, you are interested in policies and practices that affect the long-term viability of coastal wildlife, especially around fishing communities. It would be natural then to consider designing a research study around fishing communities and how they manage their ecosystems. But when you really think about it, you realize that what interests you the most is how people whose livelihoods depend on a particular resource act in ways that deplete that resource. Or, even deeper, you contemplate the puzzle, “How do people justify actions that damage their surroundings?” Now, there are many ways to design a study that gets at that broader question, and not all of them are about fishing communities, although that is certainly one way to go. Maybe you could design an interview-based study that includes and compares loggers, fishers, and desert golfers (those who golf in arid lands that require a great deal of wasteful irrigation). Or design a case study around one particular example where resources were completely used up by a community. Without knowing what it is you are really interested in, what motivates your interest in a surface phenomenon, you are unlikely to come up with the appropriate research design.

These first stages of research design are often the most difficult, but have patience . Taking the time to consider why you are going to go through a lot of trouble to get answers will prevent a lot of wasted energy in the future.

There are distinct reasons for pursuing particular research questions, and it is helpful to distinguish between them.  First, you may be personally motivated.  This is probably the most important and the most often overlooked.   What is it about the social world that sparks your curiosity? What bothers you? What answers do you need in order to keep living? For me, I knew I needed to get a handle on what higher education was for before I kept going at it. I needed to understand why I felt so different from my peers and whether this whole “higher education” thing was “for the likes of me” before I could complete my degree. That is the personal motivation question. Your personal motivation might also be political in nature, in that you want to change the world in a particular way. It’s all right to acknowledge this. In fact, it is better to acknowledge it than to hide it.

There are also academic and professional motivations for a particular study.  If you are an absolute beginner, these may be difficult to find. We’ll talk more about this when we discuss reviewing the literature. Simply put, you are probably not the only person in the world to have thought about this question or issue and those related to it. So how does your interest area fit into what others have studied? Perhaps there is a good study out there of fishing communities, but no one has quite asked the “justification” question. You are motivated to address this to “fill the gap” in our collective knowledge. And maybe you are really not at all sure of what interests you, but you do know that [insert your topic] interests a lot of people, so you would like to work in this area too. You want to be involved in the academic conversation. That is a professional motivation and a very important one to articulate.

Practical and strategic motivations are a third kind. Perhaps you want to encourage people to take better care of the natural resources around them. If this is also part of your motivation, you will want to design your research project in a way that might have an impact on how people behave in the future. There are many ways to do this, one of which is using qualitative research methods rather than quantitative research methods, as the findings of qualitative research are often easier to communicate to a broader audience than the results of quantitative research. You might even be able to engage the community you are studying in the collecting and analyzing of data, something taboo in quantitative research but actively embraced and encouraged by qualitative researchers. But there are other practical reasons, such as getting “done” with your research in a certain amount of time or having access (or no access) to certain information. There is nothing wrong with considering constraints and opportunities when designing your study. Or maybe one of the practical or strategic goals is about learning competence in this area so that you can demonstrate the ability to conduct interviews and focus groups with future employers. Keeping that in mind will help shape your study and prevent you from getting sidetracked using a technique that you are less invested in learning about.

STOP HERE for a moment

I recommend you write a paragraph (at least) explaining your aims and goals. Include a sentence about each of the following: personal/political goals, practical or professional/academic goals, and practical/strategic goals. Think through how all of the goals are related and can be achieved by this particular research study . If they can’t, have a rethink. Perhaps this is not the best way to go about it.

You will also want to be clear about the purpose of your study. “Wait, didn’t we just do this?” you might ask. No! Your goals are not the same as the purpose of the study, although they are related. You can think about purpose lying on a continuum from “ theory ” to “action” (figure 2.1). Sometimes you are doing research to discover new knowledge about the world, while other times you are doing a study because you want to measure an impact or make a difference in the world.

Purpose types: Basic Research, Applied Research, Summative Evaluation, Formative Evaluation, Action Research

Basic research involves research that is done for the sake of “pure” knowledge—that is, knowledge that, at least at this moment in time, may not have any apparent use or application. Often, and this is very important, knowledge of this kind is later found to be extremely helpful in solving problems. So one way of thinking about basic research is that it is knowledge for which no use is yet known but will probably one day prove to be extremely useful. If you are doing basic research, you do not need to argue its usefulness, as the whole point is that we just don’t know yet what this might be.

Researchers engaged in basic research want to understand how the world operates. They are interested in investigating a phenomenon to get at the nature of reality with regard to that phenomenon. The basic researcher’s purpose is to understand and explain ( Patton 2002:215 ).

Basic research is interested in generating and testing hypotheses about how the world works. Grounded Theory is one approach to qualitative research methods that exemplifies basic research (see chapter 4). Most academic journal articles publish basic research findings. If you are working in academia (e.g., writing your dissertation), the default expectation is that you are conducting basic research.

Applied research in the social sciences is research that addresses human and social problems. Unlike basic research, the researcher has expectations that the research will help contribute to resolving a problem, if only by identifying its contours, history, or context. From my experience, most students have this as their baseline assumption about research. Why do a study if not to make things better? But this is a common mistake. Students and their committee members are often working with default assumptions here—the former thinking about applied research as their purpose, the latter thinking about basic research: “The purpose of applied research is to contribute knowledge that will help people to understand the nature of a problem in order to intervene, thereby allowing human beings to more effectively control their environment. While in basic research the source of questions is the tradition within a scholarly discipline, in applied research the source of questions is in the problems and concerns experienced by people and by policymakers” ( Patton 2002:217 ).

Applied research is less geared toward theory in two ways. First, its questions do not derive from previous literature. For this reason, applied research studies have much more limited literature reviews than those found in basic research (although they make up for this by having much more “background” about the problem). Second, it does not generate theory in the same way as basic research does. The findings of an applied research project may not be generalizable beyond the boundaries of this particular problem or context. The findings are more limited. They are useful now but may be less useful later. This is why basic research remains the default “gold standard” of academic research.

Evaluation research is research that is designed to evaluate or test the effectiveness of specific solutions and programs addressing specific social problems. We already know the problems, and someone has already come up with solutions. There might be a program, say, for first-generation college students on your campus. Does this program work? Are first-generation students who participate in the program more likely to graduate than those who do not? These are the types of questions addressed by evaluation research. There are two types of research within this broader frame; however, one more action-oriented than the next. In summative evaluation , an overall judgment about the effectiveness of a program or policy is made. Should we continue our first-gen program? Is it a good model for other campuses? Because the purpose of such summative evaluation is to measure success and to determine whether this success is scalable (capable of being generalized beyond the specific case), quantitative data is more often used than qualitative data. In our example, we might have “outcomes” data for thousands of students, and we might run various tests to determine if the better outcomes of those in the program are statistically significant so that we can generalize the findings and recommend similar programs elsewhere. Qualitative data in the form of focus groups or interviews can then be used for illustrative purposes, providing more depth to the quantitative analyses. In contrast, formative evaluation attempts to improve a program or policy (to help “form” or shape its effectiveness). Formative evaluations rely more heavily on qualitative data—case studies, interviews, focus groups. The findings are meant not to generalize beyond the particular but to improve this program. If you are a student seeking to improve your qualitative research skills and you do not care about generating basic research, formative evaluation studies might be an attractive option for you to pursue, as there are always local programs that need evaluation and suggestions for improvement. Again, be very clear about your purpose when talking through your research proposal with your committee.

Action research takes a further step beyond evaluation, even formative evaluation, to being part of the solution itself. This is about as far from basic research as one could get and definitely falls beyond the scope of “science,” as conventionally defined. The distinction between action and research is blurry, the research methods are often in constant flux, and the only “findings” are specific to the problem or case at hand and often are findings about the process of intervention itself. Rather than evaluate a program as a whole, action research often seeks to change and improve some particular aspect that may not be working—maybe there is not enough diversity in an organization or maybe women’s voices are muted during meetings and the organization wonders why and would like to change this. In a further step, participatory action research , those women would become part of the research team, attempting to amplify their voices in the organization through participation in the action research. As action research employs methods that involve people in the process, focus groups are quite common.

If you are working on a thesis or dissertation, chances are your committee will expect you to be contributing to fundamental knowledge and theory ( basic research ). If your interests lie more toward the action end of the continuum, however, it is helpful to talk to your committee about this before you get started. Knowing your purpose in advance will help avoid misunderstandings during the later stages of the research process!

The Research Question

Once you have written your paragraph and clarified your purpose and truly know that this study is the best study for you to be doing right now , you are ready to write and refine your actual research question. Know that research questions are often moving targets in qualitative research, that they can be refined up to the very end of data collection and analysis. But you do have to have a working research question at all stages. This is your “anchor” when you get lost in the data. What are you addressing? What are you looking at and why? Your research question guides you through the thicket. It is common to have a whole host of questions about a phenomenon or case, both at the outset and throughout the study, but you should be able to pare it down to no more than two or three sentences when asked. These sentences should both clarify the intent of the research and explain why this is an important question to answer. More on refining your research question can be found in chapter 4.

Chances are, you will have already done some prior reading before coming up with your interest and your questions, but you may not have conducted a systematic literature review. This is the next crucial stage to be completed before venturing further. You don’t want to start collecting data and then realize that someone has already beaten you to the punch. A review of the literature that is already out there will let you know (1) if others have already done the study you are envisioning; (2) if others have done similar studies, which can help you out; and (3) what ideas or concepts are out there that can help you frame your study and make sense of your findings. More on literature reviews can be found in chapter 9.

In addition to reviewing the literature for similar studies to what you are proposing, it can be extremely helpful to find a study that inspires you. This may have absolutely nothing to do with the topic you are interested in but is written so beautifully or organized so interestingly or otherwise speaks to you in such a way that you want to post it somewhere to remind you of what you want to be doing. You might not understand this in the early stages—why would you find a study that has nothing to do with the one you are doing helpful? But trust me, when you are deep into analysis and writing, having an inspirational model in view can help you push through. If you are motivated to do something that might change the world, you probably have read something somewhere that inspired you. Go back to that original inspiration and read it carefully and see how they managed to convey the passion that you so appreciate.

At this stage, you are still just getting started. There are a lot of things to do before setting forth to collect data! You’ll want to consider and choose a research tradition and a set of data-collection techniques that both help you answer your research question and match all your aims and goals. For example, if you really want to help migrant workers speak for themselves, you might draw on feminist theory and participatory action research models. Chapters 3 and 4 will provide you with more information on epistemologies and approaches.

Next, you have to clarify your “units of analysis.” What is the level at which you are focusing your study? Often, the unit in qualitative research methods is individual people, or “human subjects.” But your units of analysis could just as well be organizations (colleges, hospitals) or programs or even whole nations. Think about what it is you want to be saying at the end of your study—are the insights you are hoping to make about people or about organizations or about something else entirely? A unit of analysis can even be a historical period! Every unit of analysis will call for a different kind of data collection and analysis and will produce different kinds of “findings” at the conclusion of your study. [2]

Regardless of what unit of analysis you select, you will probably have to consider the “human subjects” involved in your research. [3] Who are they? What interactions will you have with them—that is, what kind of data will you be collecting? Before answering these questions, define your population of interest and your research setting. Use your research question to help guide you.

Let’s use an example from a real study. In Geographies of Campus Inequality , Benson and Lee ( 2020 ) list three related research questions: “(1) What are the different ways that first-generation students organize their social, extracurricular, and academic activities at selective and highly selective colleges? (2) how do first-generation students sort themselves and get sorted into these different types of campus lives; and (3) how do these different patterns of campus engagement prepare first-generation students for their post-college lives?” (3).

Note that we are jumping into this a bit late, after Benson and Lee have described previous studies (the literature review) and what is known about first-generation college students and what is not known. They want to know about differences within this group, and they are interested in ones attending certain kinds of colleges because those colleges will be sites where academic and extracurricular pressures compete. That is the context for their three related research questions. What is the population of interest here? First-generation college students . What is the research setting? Selective and highly selective colleges . But a host of questions remain. Which students in the real world, which colleges? What about gender, race, and other identity markers? Will the students be asked questions? Are the students still in college, or will they be asked about what college was like for them? Will they be observed? Will they be shadowed? Will they be surveyed? Will they be asked to keep diaries of their time in college? How many students? How many colleges? For how long will they be observed?


Take a moment and write down suggestions for Benson and Lee before continuing on to what they actually did.

Have you written down your own suggestions? Good. Now let’s compare those with what they actually did. Benson and Lee drew on two sources of data: in-depth interviews with sixty-four first-generation students and survey data from a preexisting national survey of students at twenty-eight selective colleges. Let’s ignore the survey for our purposes here and focus on those interviews. The interviews were conducted between 2014 and 2016 at a single selective college, “Hilltop” (a pseudonym ). They employed a “purposive” sampling strategy to ensure an equal number of male-identifying and female-identifying students as well as equal numbers of White, Black, and Latinx students. Each student was interviewed once. Hilltop is a selective liberal arts college in the northeast that enrolls about three thousand students.

How did your suggestions match up to those actually used by the researchers in this study? It is possible your suggestions were too ambitious? Beginning qualitative researchers can often make that mistake. You want a research design that is both effective (it matches your question and goals) and doable. You will never be able to collect data from your entire population of interest (unless your research question is really so narrow to be relevant to very few people!), so you will need to come up with a good sample. Define the criteria for this sample, as Benson and Lee did when deciding to interview an equal number of students by gender and race categories. Define the criteria for your sample setting too. Hilltop is typical for selective colleges. That was a research choice made by Benson and Lee. For more on sampling and sampling choices, see chapter 5.

Benson and Lee chose to employ interviews. If you also would like to include interviews, you have to think about what will be asked in them. Most interview-based research involves an interview guide, a set of questions or question areas that will be asked of each participant. The research question helps you create a relevant interview guide. You want to ask questions whose answers will provide insight into your research question. Again, your research question is the anchor you will continually come back to as you plan for and conduct your study. It may be that once you begin interviewing, you find that people are telling you something totally unexpected, and this makes you rethink your research question. That is fine. Then you have a new anchor. But you always have an anchor. More on interviewing can be found in chapter 11.

Let’s imagine Benson and Lee also observed college students as they went about doing the things college students do, both in the classroom and in the clubs and social activities in which they participate. They would have needed a plan for this. Would they sit in on classes? Which ones and how many? Would they attend club meetings and sports events? Which ones and how many? Would they participate themselves? How would they record their observations? More on observation techniques can be found in both chapters 13 and 14.

At this point, the design is almost complete. You know why you are doing this study, you have a clear research question to guide you, you have identified your population of interest and research setting, and you have a reasonable sample of each. You also have put together a plan for data collection, which might include drafting an interview guide or making plans for observations. And so you know exactly what you will be doing for the next several months (or years!). To put the project into action, there are a few more things necessary before actually going into the field.

First, you will need to make sure you have any necessary supplies, including recording technology. These days, many researchers use their phones to record interviews. Second, you will need to draft a few documents for your participants. These include informed consent forms and recruiting materials, such as posters or email texts, that explain what this study is in clear language. Third, you will draft a research protocol to submit to your institutional review board (IRB) ; this research protocol will include the interview guide (if you are using one), the consent form template, and all examples of recruiting material. Depending on your institution and the details of your study design, it may take weeks or even, in some unfortunate cases, months before you secure IRB approval. Make sure you plan on this time in your project timeline. While you wait, you can continue to review the literature and possibly begin drafting a section on the literature review for your eventual presentation/publication. More on IRB procedures can be found in chapter 8 and more general ethical considerations in chapter 7.

Once you have approval, you can begin!

Research Design Checklist

Before data collection begins, do the following:

  • Write a paragraph explaining your aims and goals (personal/political, practical/strategic, professional/academic).
  • Define your research question; write two to three sentences that clarify the intent of the research and why this is an important question to answer.
  • Review the literature for similar studies that address your research question or similar research questions; think laterally about some literature that might be helpful or illuminating but is not exactly about the same topic.
  • Find a written study that inspires you—it may or may not be on the research question you have chosen.
  • Consider and choose a research tradition and set of data-collection techniques that (1) help answer your research question and (2) match your aims and goals.
  • Define your population of interest and your research setting.
  • Define the criteria for your sample (How many? Why these? How will you find them, gain access, and acquire consent?).
  • If you are conducting interviews, draft an interview guide.
  •  If you are making observations, create a plan for observations (sites, times, recording, access).
  • Acquire any necessary technology (recording devices/software).
  • Draft consent forms that clearly identify the research focus and selection process.
  • Create recruiting materials (posters, email, texts).
  • Apply for IRB approval (proposal plus consent form plus recruiting materials).
  • Block out time for collecting data.
  • At the end of the chapter, you will find a " Research Design Checklist " that summarizes the main recommendations made here ↵
  • For example, if your focus is society and culture , you might collect data through observation or a case study. If your focus is individual lived experience , you are probably going to be interviewing some people. And if your focus is language and communication , you will probably be analyzing text (written or visual). ( Marshall and Rossman 2016:16 ). ↵
  • You may not have any "live" human subjects. There are qualitative research methods that do not require interactions with live human beings - see chapter 16 , "Archival and Historical Sources." But for the most part, you are probably reading this textbook because you are interested in doing research with people. The rest of the chapter will assume this is the case. ↵

One of the primary methodological traditions of inquiry in qualitative research, ethnography is the study of a group or group culture, largely through observational fieldwork supplemented by interviews. It is a form of fieldwork that may include participant-observation data collection. See chapter 14 for a discussion of deep ethnography. 

A methodological tradition of inquiry and research design that focuses on an individual case (e.g., setting, institution, or sometimes an individual) in order to explore its complexity, history, and interactive parts.  As an approach, it is particularly useful for obtaining a deep appreciation of an issue, event, or phenomenon of interest in its particular context.

The controlling force in research; can be understood as lying on a continuum from basic research (knowledge production) to action research (effecting change).

In its most basic sense, a theory is a story we tell about how the world works that can be tested with empirical evidence.  In qualitative research, we use the term in a variety of ways, many of which are different from how they are used by quantitative researchers.  Although some qualitative research can be described as “testing theory,” it is more common to “build theory” from the data using inductive reasoning , as done in Grounded Theory .  There are so-called “grand theories” that seek to integrate a whole series of findings and stories into an overarching paradigm about how the world works, and much smaller theories or concepts about particular processes and relationships.  Theory can even be used to explain particular methodological perspectives or approaches, as in Institutional Ethnography , which is both a way of doing research and a theory about how the world works.

Research that is interested in generating and testing hypotheses about how the world works.

A methodological tradition of inquiry and approach to analyzing qualitative data in which theories emerge from a rigorous and systematic process of induction.  This approach was pioneered by the sociologists Glaser and Strauss (1967).  The elements of theory generated from comparative analysis of data are, first, conceptual categories and their properties and, second, hypotheses or generalized relations among the categories and their properties – “The constant comparing of many groups draws the [researcher’s] attention to their many similarities and differences.  Considering these leads [the researcher] to generate abstract categories and their properties, which, since they emerge from the data, will clearly be important to a theory explaining the kind of behavior under observation.” (36).

An approach to research that is “multimethod in focus, involving an interpretative, naturalistic approach to its subject matter.  This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.  Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials – case study, personal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts – that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives." ( Denzin and Lincoln 2005:2 ). Contrast with quantitative research .

Research that contributes knowledge that will help people to understand the nature of a problem in order to intervene, thereby allowing human beings to more effectively control their environment.

Research that is designed to evaluate or test the effectiveness of specific solutions and programs addressing specific social problems.  There are two kinds: summative and formative .

Research in which an overall judgment about the effectiveness of a program or policy is made, often for the purpose of generalizing to other cases or programs.  Generally uses qualitative research as a supplement to primary quantitative data analyses.  Contrast formative evaluation research .

Research designed to improve a program or policy (to help “form” or shape its effectiveness); relies heavily on qualitative research methods.  Contrast summative evaluation research

Research carried out at a particular organizational or community site with the intention of affecting change; often involves research subjects as participants of the study.  See also participatory action research .

Research in which both researchers and participants work together to understand a problematic situation and change it for the better.

The level of the focus of analysis (e.g., individual people, organizations, programs, neighborhoods).

The large group of interest to the researcher.  Although it will likely be impossible to design a study that incorporates or reaches all members of the population of interest, this should be clearly defined at the outset of a study so that a reasonable sample of the population can be taken.  For example, if one is studying working-class college students, the sample may include twenty such students attending a particular college, while the population is “working-class college students.”  In quantitative research, clearly defining the general population of interest is a necessary step in generalizing results from a sample.  In qualitative research, defining the population is conceptually important for clarity.

A fictional name assigned to give anonymity to a person, group, or place.  Pseudonyms are important ways of protecting the identity of research participants while still providing a “human element” in the presentation of qualitative data.  There are ethical considerations to be made in selecting pseudonyms; some researchers allow research participants to choose their own.

A requirement for research involving human participants; the documentation of informed consent.  In some cases, oral consent or assent may be sufficient, but the default standard is a single-page easy-to-understand form that both the researcher and the participant sign and date.   Under federal guidelines, all researchers "shall seek such consent only under circumstances that provide the prospective subject or the representative sufficient opportunity to consider whether or not to participate and that minimize the possibility of coercion or undue influence. The information that is given to the subject or the representative shall be in language understandable to the subject or the representative.  No informed consent, whether oral or written, may include any exculpatory language through which the subject or the representative is made to waive or appear to waive any of the subject's rights or releases or appears to release the investigator, the sponsor, the institution, or its agents from liability for negligence" (21 CFR 50.20).  Your IRB office will be able to provide a template for use in your study .

An administrative body established to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of the institution with which it is affiliated. The IRB is charged with the responsibility of reviewing all research involving human participants. The IRB is concerned with protecting the welfare, rights, and privacy of human subjects. The IRB has the authority to approve, disapprove, monitor, and require modifications in all research activities that fall within its jurisdiction as specified by both the federal regulations and institutional policy.

Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods Copyright © 2023 by Allison Hurst is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How To Develop Your Research Project Chapter Two Effectively (Literature Review) | ResearchWap Blog

  • Posted: Wednesday, 08 April 2020
  • By: ResearchWap Admin

How To Develop A Literature Review For A Research Work


A literature review is a survey of academic sources on a particular project topic. It gives an overview of the ebb and flows information, permitting you to distinguish significant hypotheses, strategies, and holes in the current research.

A literature review is to show your reader that you have read, and have a good grasp of, the main published work concerning a particular topic or question in your field.

It is very important to note that your review should not be simply a description of what others have published in the form of a set of summaries but should take the form of a critical discussion, showing insight and an awareness of differing arguments, theories, and approaches. It should be a synthesis and analysis of the relevant published work, linked at all times to your own purpose and rationale.

Conducting a literature review involves collecting, evaluating, and analyzing publications (such as books and journal articles) that relate to your research question. There are five main steps in the process of writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources – it analyzes, synthesizes, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

According to Caulley (1992) of La Trobe University, the literature review should:

• compare and contrast different authors’ views on an issue • group authors who draw similar conclusions • criticize aspects of the methodology • note areas in which authors are in disagreement • highlight exemplary studies • highlight gaps in research • show how your study relates to previous studies • show how your study relates to the literature in general • conclude by summarising what the literature says


• To define and limit the problem you are working on • To place your study in a historical perspective • To avoid unnecessary duplication • To evaluate promising research methods • To relate your findings to previous knowledge and suggest further research

A good literature review, therefore, is critical of what has been written, identifies areas of controversy, raises questions, and identifies areas that need further research.


The overall structure of your review will depend largely on your own thesis or research area. What you will need to do is to group together and compare and contrast the varying opinions of different writers on certain topics. What you must not do is just describe what one writer says, and then go on to give a general overview of another writer, and then another, and so on. Your structure should be dictated instead by topic areas, controversial issues or by questions to which there are varying approaches and theories. Within each of these sections, you would then discuss what the different literature argues, remembering to link this to your own purpose.

Linking words are important. If you are grouping together writers with similar opinions, you would use words or phrases such as: Similarly, in addition, also, again

More importantly, if there is disagreement, you need to indicate clearly that you are aware of this by the use of linkers such as: however, on the other hand, conversely, nevertheless

At the end of the review, you should include a summary of what the literature implies, which again links to your hypothesis or main question.

A standard research literature review is expected to follow the format below:


  • Conceptual framework
  • Theoretical framework
  • Empirical review
  • Knowledge gap (optional)
  • Summary of literature

INTRODUCTION: here undergraduate or final year project students are expected to simply spell out in at least seven (7) what this chapter will contain. As we have it above conceptual framework, theoretical framework, empirical review, etc. a good introduction gives the project supervisor kind confidence in his or her project students.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: a good conceptual framework will cover all the research objectives so as to help solve the problem of the research work. This section involves the use of diagrams to explain certain key variables in the research work. The use of diagrams is usually high in MBA/MSC thesis research.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: this section is very important in research work. Undergraduate project students, postgraduate research students are expected to search for theories that are related to their research project topic.

For example, consider the project topic on human resource management: work-life balancing and its effect on employee productivity; the theory that is suited for the above research topic is The Segmentation Theory, Spill-Over Theory, Compensation Theory, Resource Drain Theory, and Border Theory. A project student is expected to get the theories that are related to their research work/ topic.


The empirical review is simply talking about the various researches done by other researchers concerning your topic or people's research works that are similar to your research work. The names of various researchers must be attached to their findings or statement.

For example, the use of instructional materials in teaching and learning of geography in senior secondary schools has a significant effect on the level of the academic achievement of students (Androameda, 2017)


Here the research or project students are expected to point out their view concerning all that was discussed in each section of the literature review.


When you write a thesis, dissertation, or research paper, you will have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position yourself in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate

You might also have to write a literature review as a stand-alone assignment. In this case, the purpose is to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of scholarly debates around a topic.

The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps.

Step 1: Search for relevant literature

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic.

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions.

If you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, you will have to choose a focus and develop a central question to direct your search. Unlike a dissertation research question, this question has to be answerable without collecting original data. You should be able to answer it based only on a review of existing publications.

Search for literature using keywords and citations

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research topic and question. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalog
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering, and computer science)

Read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

To identify the most important publications on your topic, take note of recurring citations. If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out.

You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar – a high citation count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your literature review.

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing.

Step 2: Evaluate and select sources

You probably won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on the topic – you’ll have to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your questions.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods? Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • How does the publication contribute to your understanding of the topic? What are its key insights and arguments?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences, you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities, you might take a long historical perspective (for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time).

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism. It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography, where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

You can use our free citation generator to quickly create correct and consistent APA citations or MLA format citations.

Step 3: Identify themes, debates, and gaps

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, you need to understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results):  do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes:  what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts, and contradictions:  where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications:  are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps:  What is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

Step 4: Outline your literature review’s structure

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).


The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.


If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods, you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources


A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Step 5: Write your literature review

Like any other academic text, your literature review should have an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion. What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Dissertation literature review you are writing the literature review as part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate your central problem or research question, and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. You can emphasize the timeliness of the topic (“many recent studies have focused on the problem of x”) or highlight a gap in the literature (“while there has been much research on x, few researchers have taken y into consideration”). Stand-alone literature review you are writing a stand-alone paper, give some background on the topic and its importance, discuss the scope of the literature you will review (for example, the time period of your sources), and state your objective. What new insight will you draw from the literature?

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize:  give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret:  don’t just paraphrase other researchers—add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate:  mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs:  use transitions and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts

Literature review paragraph example

The example below is taken from the body of a literature review on the relationship between national identity and nature conservation. This paragraph discusses how humanities scholars have approached the concept of wilderness.

Early work in environmental humanities tended to take a sharply critical approach to the wilderness, focusing on the cultural construction of supposedly ‘natural’ landscapes. The rise of climate change awareness in the 1980s had been framed by narratives about “the end of nature” (McKibben 1989), in which a once-pristine wilderness is degraded by humans to the point of disappearance. In response to this popular discourse, environmental historian William Cronon critiqued the concept of pure, pristine nature to be preserved from human influence, arguing that ideas like “wilderness” are themselves products of particular human cultures and histories. In his influential essay ‘The Trouble with Wilderness’ (1995), Cronon traces how the ideal of untouched wilderness, anxiety over its loss, and the political will to preserve it has been central to American national identity, entwined with religious motifs and colonial frontier mythologies. Following Cronon, the racial and class politics of wilderness preservation was a theme taken up by several scholars in the late 1990s and early 2000s, who researched the material effects of conservation politics on indigenous and rural Americans (Catton 1997; Spence 1999; Jacoby 2001). The US National Park system became the dominant paradigm for analyzing relations between conservation, nationhood, and nationalism. However, this approach has sometimes led to a narrowly US-centric perspective that fails to engage closely with the meanings and materialities of “wilderness” in different contexts. Recent work has begun to challenge this paradigm and argues for more varied approaches to understanding the socio-political relations between nations and nature.

The example combines the thematic and chronological approaches. This section of the literature review focuses on the theme of wilderness, while the paragraph itself is organized chronologically.

In conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

Dissertation literature review if the literature review is part of your thesis or dissertation, show how your research addresses gaps and contributes new knowledge, or discuss how you have drawn on existing theories and methods to build a framework for your research.Stand-alone literature review if you are writing a stand-alone paper, you can discuss the overall implications of the literature or make suggestions for future research based on the gaps you have identified.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting it. Our quick guide to proofreading offers some useful tips and tricks!

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National Academies Press: OpenBook

Performance Specifications for Rapid Highway Renewal (2014)

Chapter: chapter 2 - research methodology.

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

12 C h a p t e r 2 Performance specifications emphasize desired outcomes and results, challenging owners and their industry partners to think in terms of user needs and to recognize that more than one solution may achieve the project objectives. Incorporating such concepts into a specification represents a distinct depar- ture from today’s build-to-print culture and demands a new approach to specification writing, contract administration, and construction execution. To help advance this new approach, the R07 research team developed guide specifications and associated implementation guidelines to support the application of performance speci- fications across a wide range of work and projects. In prepar- ing these documents, the team focused its research efforts on addressing the following fundamental questions: • What are performance specifications? • How are effective performance specifications developed and drafted? • Why use performance specifications? • What are the risks associated with using performance specifications? • When should performance specifications be used instead of method specifications? • Who is affected by the implementation of performance specifications and how are they affected? What are performance Specifications? Context drives how performance specifications are defined within the construction industry. For example, the U.S. Depart- ment of Defense (DoD) describes a performance specification as one that states requirements in terms of the required results and the criteria for verifying compliance, without specifically stating how the results are to be achieved. A performance specification describes the functional requirements for an item, its capa- bilities, the environment in which it must operate, and any interface, interoperability, or compatibility requirements. It does not present a preconceived solution to a requirement. (DoD 2009) In addition to addressing end-product performance, as contemplated by the DoD definition, requirements for a high- way construction project could conceivably extend to project- related performance in terms of work zone management, safety, and timely completion. Postconstruction and operational per- formance, as found in warranties and maintenance agreements, also could be included. The first task for the research team was therefore to con- duct a comprehensive literature review to establish what the term performance specifications encompasses when applied to the highway construction industry. Literature Review To provide focus to the literature review, the team first deter- mined which elements of a rapid renewal project would benefit from the development and implementation of performance specifications. Bearing in mind the objectives of rapid renewal (i.e., accelerated construction, minimal disruption, and long- life facilities), the team identified both physical products of con- struction (bridges, earthwork and geotechnical systems, and asphalt and concrete pavements) and project-level require- ments (work zone management, public relations, quality index- ing, and time incentives) as areas for possible application of performance specifications. To provide additional structure to the literature review, the team also established baseline definitions (presented in Appen- dix B) of specification types and contracting methods that would fall under the umbrella term performance specifications. As described in Chapter 1, performance specifications may be viewed in terms of a continuum. Categorizing specifications (e.g., as end-result specifications or PRS) helps identify the Research Methodology

13 advancement of performance specifications in a particular topic area. The literature review effort itself entailed collecting and reviewing reports, specifications, contract documents, and similar information to determine the status of performance specifying in each of the topic areas considered. The primary resources consulted included relevant FHWA, AASHTO, and NCHRP reports, as well as additional reports, contracts, and specifications from departments of transportation, industry, and international sources. Particular emphasis was placed on obtaining documents that addressed product performance measures, incentives, measurement and verification strategies, risk allocation techniques, legal and administrative issues, and other information relevant to the development and imple- mentation of performance specifications. Content Analysis The collected literature was classified according to specification type (e.g., end-result, PRS, warranty, and so on), topic area (e.g., pavement, bridge, work zone management, and so on), and project delivery approach (e.g., design-bid-build, design-build, design-build-operate-maintain). Then it was screened for per- ceived applicability to subsequent specification development efforts on the basis of containing or suggesting the following: • Progressive or creative performance parameters, measure- ment strategies, test methods (NDT or otherwise), or acceptance criteria appropriate to the rapid renewal environment; • Techniques to transfer performance responsibility from the owner to the contractor; • Actual or potential value of performance specifications; and • Conditions appropriate for the use of performance specifications. An annotated bibliography of documents is included in Appendix D. In addition, an index of existing performance specifications, collected as part of the literature review, is avail- able at the R07 report web page (http://www.trb.org/main/ blurbs/169107.aspx). how are effective performance Specifications Developed and Drafted? Historically, efforts at performance specifying (particularly in the pavement area) focused on the development and use of complex predictive models to establish specification require- ments. The research study undertaken for the R07 project adopted a more pragmatic approach that is amenable to, but not reliant on, the use of such models to define perfor- mance needs. The step-by-step process balances user needs and project goals against available technology and industry’s appetite for assuming performance risk, recognizing that such factors are often closely tied to the selected project delivery method. As illustrated by the suite of guide performance specifications prepared under this research study, the inherent flexibility of this approach makes it readily adaptable to different project elements and delivery methods. The complete performance specification development pro- cess is presented in the specification writers guide, Chapter 2. Agencies are encouraged to use the implementation guide- lines in conjunction with the guide specifications to tailor per formance requirements to project-specific conditions. Alter natively, agencies may develop additional performance specifications for needs not addressed by the current set of guide specifications. Specification Development Framework The primary function of a specification, whether prescriptive or performance oriented, is to communicate a project’s require- ments and the criteria by which the owner will verify confor- mance with the requirements. In this respect, performance specifications are similar to conventional method specifica- tions. Where they differ is the level at which performance must be defined. Figure 2.1—which was adapted from a model devel- oped by the Netherlands Ministry of Transport, Public Works, and Water Management—illustrates the possible requirement levels for a hypothetical pavement project (van der Zwan 2003). Taken as a whole, the pyramid depicted in the figure is intended to represent the entirety of knowledge and expe rience related to pavement design and construction. Taking and evaluating each level individually, the specifier can create a specification that is entirely prescriptive (if based solely on the material and workmanship properties defined on the lowest levels) or one that is more performance oriented (if based on the user needs and functional requirements described on the higher levels). For a particular project, the appropriate mix of perfor- mance requirements is driven by the project’s scope and objectives as well as the chosen project delivery approach and risk allo cation strategy. In practice, specifications typically include elements from several of the levels shown in Figure 2.1. Determining the appropriate balance between prescriptive and performance-oriented requirements is one of the main objectives of the eight-step specification development pro- cess illustrated Figure 2.2. Chapter 2 of the specification writ- ers guide describes this specification development framework in detail, systematically leading a specifier through each step in the process. However, as suggested by a review of the guide

14 specifications themselves, some steps are more critical to certain topic areas than to others. For example, although project deliv- ery approach (Step 3) plays a large role in shaping the develop- ment of a performance specification for pavements and bridges, it has less influence on establishing performance requirements for work zone management and geotechnical features. Application of the Performance Specification Framework To apply this framework to the main research areas of pave- ment, bridges, geotechnical systems, and work zone man- agement, the team first reviewed a cross section of existing performance specifications obtained through the literature review effort. Coordination with other SHRP and FHWA research projects provided additional information on topic areas that complemented the R07 effort to develop perfor- mance specifications for rapid renewal. The relevant projects addressed the following topics: • Advances in nondestructive testing techniques {e.g., SHRP 2 R06; FHWA Transportation Pooled Fund study [Project No. TPF-5(128)] on intelligent compaction}; • Innovative materials (e.g., SHRP 2 R19A); and • Mechanistic-based performance prediction (e.g., FHWA research study DTFH61-08-H-00005). The team carefully reviewed the collected literature, filter- ing existing performance specifications through the criteria established in the specification development framework to identify viable performance parameters and measurement strategies. Existing performance measures that met the frame- work criteria formed the basis for initial brainstorming ses- sions conducted among the team’s internal experts. Those existing measures, coupled with the team’s own project expe- rience, led to the development of draft performance require- ments which were then discussed and reviewed with external representatives from agencies and industry in formal work- shop settings. The input from external experts was used to refine and finalize the guide specifications and asso ciated commentary. Chapter 3 provides a more detailed summary of the findings from the literature review and outreach efforts in the context of the development of the guide specifications. To develop specifications that would be suitable for adop- tion by AASHTO, to the extent possible, the team adhered to the principles set forth in the National Highway Institute (NHI) Course No. 134001, Principles of Writing Highway Construction Specifications, and the FHWA Technical Advi- sory, Development and Review of Specifications (FHWA 2010). Even so, the team recognized that the typical AASHTO five- part format (Description, Materials, Construction, Measure- ment, Payment) may not be appropriate for every project delivery approach. For example, the lump-sum nature of a design-build contract may make measurement and payment sections unnecessary, whereas a warranty provision would require additional requirements related to bonding, distress evaluations, and required remedial action during the war- ranty period. Source: van der Zwan 2003 Figure 2.1. Pyramid of performance.

15 Figure 2.2. Performance specification development process.

16 Why Use performance Specifications? Successful implementation of performance specifications will likely require a departure from traditional project development and delivery processes. To gain support for necessary changes, best practice suggests first establishing a compelling business case as to why performance specifica- tions represent a desired addition to an agency’s contracting toolbox. Literature Review To establish the rationale for using performance specifica- tions, the team first performed a literature review to docu- ment any prior efforts to identify the actual or potential value received through the use of performance-based, incentive- based, and performance warranty contracts and specifica- tions in the highway construction industry. Recognizing that performance specifications have not been widely applied to transportation projects in the United States, the team expanded its literature search to include research and practice from outside the highway industry. For example, the use of performance-based service contracts has become a standard business practice for some federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense (DoD), and the benefits of these contracts have been validated by research studies and best practice guides (OFPP 1998a; OFPP 1998b; DoD 2000). Although the benefits may not directly translate to the value added or lost by applying performance specifications to a highway construction project, they do provide general insight into the advantages of using performance contracting strategies. Value Assessment Research and practice, particularly from outside the highway industry, suggest that implementing performance specifica- tions has the potential to provide several advantages, includ- ing decreased life-cycle costs, reduced inspection, and improved quality and customer satisfaction. However, the literature contains little data quantifying the actual value added or lost by implementing performance specifications. Despite the lack of quantitative data, the literature does reflect the perception that using performance specifications or a performance contracting system will result in enhanced value (or performance) for highway agencies and road users. The literature also makes evident that these enhancements can be attributed, at least in part, to alternative project delivery systems that provide more flexibility and shift more responsibility to the private sector to achieve perfor- mance goals. Comparative Framework The team felt it was necessary to develop a comparative struc- ture to assess performance specifications against a benchmark. That comparison would allow consideration of how project delivery approaches could affect the actual or potential value received from implementing performance specifications. On the basis of the literature review and consultation with subject matter experts, the team generated a list of viable delivery schemes for performance specifications. The results of that effort led the team to use the following delivery meth- ods as the basis for assessing the perceived value of perfor- mance specifications: • Prescriptive (method) specifications (benchmark); • Design-bid-build, with some performance requirements, but no warranty (DBB+P); • Design-bid-build, with short-term warranty (DBB+STW); • Design-build, with no warranty (DB); • Design-build, with short-term warranty (DB+STW); and • Design-build-maintain (DBM). Recognizing that project conditions could also affect the value received from performance specifications, the compar- ative framework considered the impact of different project characteristics such as the following: • Road class (local, state highway, interstate, toll); • Type of construction (preservation, reconstruction, new construction); • Traffic [low, moderate, or high annual average daily traffic (AADT)]; • Location (urban, rural); • Complexity (depending on project phasing, right-of-way requirements, utilities, environmental issues, etc.); and • Climate (depending on moisture and temperature, by region). In the context of these delivery approaches and project char- acteristics, the team turned to expert participation in surveys and workshops to assess the perceived value of using perfor- mance specifications. Such nonexperimental research tech- niques were found to be applicable given the nature of the study. Factors such as delivery methods and project character- istics can be shown to affect the perceived value placed on the implementation of performance specifications on highway construction projects. However, the effect or extent of the rela- tionship cannot be determined with precision, as any one of the other factors can lead to the same or a similar effect. There- fore, the team relied on nonexperimental techniques, includ- ing surveys and documentation of experts’ comments elicited in a workshop setting, as means for data collection.

17 Delphi Analysis Although the survey method is a detailed and systematic method of data collection, response rates can be poor and the participating experts can leave out vital information. To bol- ster this technique, the team applied the Delphi method. The Delphi method is an adaptation of the survey method and is used to obtain the judgment of a panel of experts on a complex issue or topic. It is a systematic method of data col- lection and structured discussion that aims to minimize the effects of bias given the characteristic lack of anonymity in interviews and general surveys. The method is particularly useful in situations in which empirical means are not suitable and research results rely heavily on the subjective opinions of experts. In brief, a Delphi analysis entails an iterative process in which experts’ opinions are processed and used as feedback for further refinement of opinions generated in earlier sur- vey rounds. The iterative nature of the process is expected to yield more reliable results than a single survey round. The Delphi analysis required the team to (1) assemble the Delphi expert group; (2) develop and administer survey questions; (3) receive and process the survey responses; (4) conduct a structured workshop to present, discuss, and clarify the sur- vey results; (5) conduct a second survey round assessment; (6) summarize the outcomes of the Round 2 assessment, and (7) conduct a Round 3 assessment and summarize results. Appendix E provides a detailed summary of the design and results of this data collection effort. The Delphi survey results are provided in Appendix G. Demonstration Projects Perhaps the most powerful way to identify and communicate the potential benefits of performance specifications is through demonstration projects. The SHRP 2 R07 project therefore included an implementation phase designed to validate the guidelines and performance specifications developed during the research effort. The first step toward this end was to identify candidate agen- cies that would be willing to participate in a demonstration project. A survey questionnaire was developed to gauge the interest and experience of a representative sample of highway agencies in the United States, particularly those known to have experience or interest in performance specifications or alter- native project delivery methods. The survey included a brief description of the R07 project, including the project objectives and scope of the demonstration program. The survey document further explained that the team was seeking to work with two or more transportation agencies in implementing performance specifications on demonstra- tion projects to test and validate the use of performance specifications for rapid highway renewal projects. The R07 team offered to provide resources to work with agency per- sonnel to select an appropriate project or projects, develop the necessary performance specifications and contracting pro- visions, and assist with the administration of the project dur- ing design and construction, and, if applicable, during the maintenance and operation phase. Most important, the survey sought information as to (1) the likelihood that the agency would have projects suit- able for a demonstration of performance specifications in the 2010–2011 construction seasons and (2) the areas for which the agency would be most interested in performance specifying. Ten agencies returned questionnaires or sent e-mail responses indicating interest in participating in a SHRP 2 R07 demonstra- tion project. From those responses, the team identified the following projects as viable candidates for demonstrations: • Virginia DOT Route 208 Lake Anna Bridge Deck Rehabilita- tion Project—a shadow demonstration of the use of perfor- mance parameters that related more to long-term durability and performance; • Missouri DOT Route 141 Roadway Improvement Project— a demonstration of the use of nondestructive roller-integrated compaction monitoring (RICM), or intelligent compaction, to provide real-time and improved quality control of soil compaction operations; and • Louisiana DOTD U.S. Frontage Roads—a demonstration of the use of RICM and mechanistic-based in situ point measurements on a new pavement section. A more detailed discussion of these demonstrations is pro- vided in Chapter 3. What are the risks associated with Implementing performance Specifications? Risk in the context of performance specifications relates to the existence of any uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on the objectives of the specification. The FHWA’s Guide to Risk Assessment and Allocation for Highway Construction Management presents a continuous, cyclical approach to risk assessment, involving the following steps: identify, assess and analyze, mitigate and plan, allocate, and monitor and update (Ashley et al. 2006). A similar approach was used to address the risks associated with performance specifications. As a key component of the specification development frame- work, the discussion of risk related to performance specifica- tions (i.e., identification and evaluation of risks) is addressed in the specification writers guide. The entire process of developing

18 a performance specification is in a sense a risk management exercise designed to identify, allocate, and mitigate the risks associated with implementing a performance specification. The generally accepted approach to project-level risk management—as described in FHWA’s Guide to Risk Assess- ment (Ashley et al. 2006) or the SHRP 2 R09 Guide for the Process of Managing Risk on Rapid Renewal Projects (Golder Associates et al. 2013)—is useful in developing a general frame- work for identifying risks; it is less useful in terms of analysis (e.g., quantifying the frequency and impacts of specification- related risks). In some cases the specification risks, such as gaps in performance measurement, are difficult to quantify given the current state of the practice (or level of understanding). For example, given the interest in the use of NDT and mechanistic properties for performance measurement, further research is needed to quantify the effects of risk related to variability or reliability of NDT versus traditional tests, or opportunities related to the use of mechanistic versus traditional perfor- mance measures. Additional long-term data collection will be needed to make valid quantitative risk assessments. The risk process described in the specification writers guide is geared to identifying risks and gaps and qualitatively deciding whether performance specifications are appropri- ate. Further, the guide assists in determining how to develop a performance specification to allocate risk among the proj- ect participants considering the current state of the practice. Further assessment of performance specification risks are needed to quantify the impacts or opportunities related to their use. When Should performance Specifications Be Used? Performance specifications are not ideal for every construc- tion contract or project circumstance. However, they may hold significant advantages over traditional method specifi- cations when certain criteria or conditions are met. To inte- grate performance specifications into an agency’s contracting toolbox, a process is needed to evaluate when to use or not to use performance specifications. The decision to use method or performance specifications is often a matter of degree (how much and at what level). Both approaches may be appropriate for specific elements within a project. In choosing the appropriate level of perfor- mance specifications, an organization’s culture, statutory restrictions, project objectives and characteristics, project delivery approach, and risk appetite all may play important parts in defining specifications. The interaction among these key factors will likely determine the preference for one type of specification over the other. The decision to use performance specifications versus method specifications can involve a relatively straightforward screening test, followed by a more in-depth analysis of the level and type of performance specifying appropriate for the project characteristics and contracting type. Thus, the imple- mentation guidelines (see the executive guide, Chapter 5) present a two-part decision process for evaluating when to use or not to use performance specifications. Part 1 of this decision process considers a project’s scope and goals. Part 2 addresses the project delivery considerations that could also affect the decision. Who Is affected by performance Specifications and how are they affected? For agency personnel, developing and implementing a scope of work in terms of user needs and end-result performance is often much more challenging and resource intensive than simply adhering to the agency’s standard specifications. For contractors, an initial investment may be needed to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and equipment to assume more responsibility for performance. While critical to a project’s success, a well-drafted perfor- mance specification will not in and of itself ensure that an agency’s performance goals will be met. Cultural, organiza- tional, and legal issues can also affect the successful imple- mentation of performance specifications. For this reason, the team prepared a set of implementation guidelines to accom- pany the guide specifications. In doing so, the team reviewed the existing literature, had discussions with practitioners from agencies and industry, and identified lessons learned from the demonstration projects. The goal was to address the following considerations: • The effect the decision to use performance specifications could have on an agency’s traditional project delivery phases, from project planning and preliminary engineering through to construction completion and possibly beyond to mainte- nance and asset management; • Any natural progression or transition from more traditional contracts and specifications that should precede the deci- sion to use performance specifications (i.e., a learning curve to attune both the agency and industry to a new business model); and the • General mechanics of administering performance con- tracts (e.g., procurement process, document and database management, and so on). This information, along with the key takeaways drawn from the other research tasks, was incorporated into both the imple- mentation guidelines and the guide specifications, as applica- ble, to provide agencies with the tools needed to develop and successfully implement performance specifications.

TRB’s second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Report S2-R07-RR-1: Performance Specifications for Rapid Highway Renewal describes suggested performance specifications for different application areas and delivery methods that users may tailor to address rapid highway renewal project-specific goals and conditions.

SHRP 2 Renewal Project R07 also produced:

  • Implementation Guidelines: Volume I: Strategies for Implementing Performance Specifications: A Guide for Executives and Project Managers , which is designed to provide a broad overview of the benefits and challenges associated with implementing performance specifications.
  • Implementation Guidelines: Volume II: Developing and Drafting Effective Performance Specifications: A Guide for Specification Writers , which presents a flexible framework that specifiers may use to assess whether performance specifying represents a viable option for a particular project or project element. If it is indeed a viable option, the guide discusses how performance specifications may then be developed and used to achieve project-specific goals and satisfy user needs.
  • A pilot study , in partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation, to investigate the effectiveness of selected quality assurance/quality control testing technologies.

A separate document, Guide Performance Specifications , includes model specifications and commentary to address implementation and performance targets (for acceptance) for 13 routine highway items. Agencies may adapt guide specifications to specific standards or project conditions. The commentary addresses gaps, risks, and options.

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2 Chapter 2 (Introducing Research)

Joining a Conversation

Typically, when students are taught about citing sources, it is in the context of the need to avoid plagiarism. While that is a valuable and worthwhile goal in its own right, it shifts the focus past one of the original motives for source citation. The goal of referencing sources was originally to situate thoughts in a conversation and to provide support for ideas. If I learned about ethics from Kant, then I cite Kant so that people would know whose understanding shaped my thinking. More than that, if they liked what I had to say, they could read more from Kant to explore those ideas. Of course, if they disliked what I had to say, I could also refer them to Kant’s arguments and use them to back up my own thinking.

For example, you should not take my word for it that oranges contain Vitamin C. I could not cut up an orange and extract the Vitamin C, and I’m only vaguely aware of its chemical formula. However, you don’t have to. The FDA and the CDC both support this idea, and they can provide the documentation. For that matter, I can also find formal articles that provide more information. One of the purposes of a college education is to introduce students to the larger body of knowledge that exists. For example, a student studying marketing is in no small part trying to gain access to the information that others have learned—over time—about what makes for effective marketing techniques. Chemistry students are not required to derive the periodic table on their own once every four years.

In short, college classes (and college essays) are often about joining a broader conversation on a subject. Learning, in general, is about opening one’s mind to the idea that the person doing the learning is not the beginning nor the end of all knowledge.

Remember that most college-level assignments often exist so that a teacher can evaluate a student’s knowledge. This means that displaying more of that knowledge and explaining more of the reasoning that goes into a claim typically does more to fulfill the goals of an assignment. The difference between an essay and a multiple choice test is that an essay typically gives students more room to demonstrate a thought process in action. It is a way of having students “show their work,” and so essays that jump to the end without that work are setting themselves up for failure.

Learning, Not Listing

Aristotle once claimed “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Many students are familiar with the idea of search . The internet makes it tremendously easy to search for information—and misinformation. It takes a few seconds to find millions of results on almost any topic. However, that is not research. Where, after all, is the re in all of that? The Cambridge Dictionary offers the following definition:

Research (verb): to study a subject in detail, especially in order to discover new information or reach a new understanding.

Nothing about that implies a casual effort to type a couple of words into search engine and assuming that a result on the first screen is probably good enough. Nor does that imply that a weighted or biased search question, like “why is animal testing bad” will get worthwhile results.  Instead, research requires that the researcher searches, learns a little, and then searches again . Additionally, the level of detail matters. Research often involves knowing enough to understand the deeper levels of the subject.

For example, if someone is researching the efficacy of animal testing, they might encounter a claim that mice share a certain percentage of their DNA with human beings. Even this is problematic, because measuring DNA by percentage isn’t as simple as it sounds. However, estimates range from 85% to 97.5%, with the latter number being the one that refers to the active or “working” DNA. Unfortunately, the casual reader still knows nothing of value about using mice for human research. Why? Because the casual reader doesn’t know if the testing being done involves the 97.5% or the 2.5%, or even if the test is one where it can be separated.

To put it bluntly, Abraham Lincoln once had a trip to the theater that started 97.5% the same as his other trips to the theater.

In order for casual readers to make sense of this single factoid, they need to know more about DNA and about the nature of the tests being performed on the animals. They probably need to understand biology at least a little. They certainly need to understand math at a high enough level to understand basic statistics. All of this, of course, assumes that the student has also decided that the source itself is worthy of trust. In other words, an activist website found through a search engine that proclaims “mice are almost identical to humans” or “mice lack 300 million base pairs that humans have”. Neither source is lying. Just neither source helps the reader understand what is being talked about (if the sources themselves even understand).

Before a student can write a decent paper, the student needs to have decent information. Finding that information requires research, not search. Often, student writers (and other rhetors) mistakenly begin with a presupposed position that they then try to force into the confines of their rhetoric.  Argumentation requires an investigation into an issue before any claim is proffered for discussion.  The ‘thesis statement’ comes last; in many ways it is the product of extensive investigation and learning. A student should be equally open to and skeptical of all sources.

Skepticism in Research

Skepticism is not doubting everyone who disagrees with you. True skepticism is doubting all claims equally and requiring every claim to be held to the same burden of proof (not just the claims we disagree with). By far, the biggest misconception novice writers struggle with is the idea that it is okay to use a low-quality source (like a blog, or a news article, or an activist organization) because they got “just facts” from that source.

The assumption seems to be that all presentations of fact are equally presented, or that sources don’t lie. However, even leaving aside that many times people do lie in their own interests, which facts are presented and how they are presented changes immensely. There’s no such thing as “just facts.” The presentation of facts matters, as does how they are gathered. Source evaluation is a fundamental aspect of advanced academic writing.

“Lies” of Omission and Inclusion:  One of the simplest ways to misrepresent information is simply to exclude material that could weaken the stance that is favored by the author. This tactic is frequently called stacking the deck , and it is obviously dishonest. However, there is a related problem known as observational bias , wherein the author might not have a single negative intention whatsoever. Instead, xe simply only pays attention to the evidence that supports xir cause, because it’s what’s relevant to xir.

  • Arguments in favor of nuclear energy as a “clean” fuel source frequently leave out the problem of what to do with the spent fuel rods (i.e. radioactive waste). Similarly, arguments against nuclear energy frequently count only dramatic failures of older plants and not the safe operation of numerous modern plants; another version is to highlight the health risks of nuclear energy without providing the context of health risks caused by equivalent fuel sources (e.g. coal or natural gas).
  • Those who rely on personal observation in support of the idea that Zoomers are lazy might count only the times they see younger people playing games or relaxing, ignoring the number of times they see people that same age working jobs or—more accurately—the times they don’t see people that age because they are too busy helping around the house or doing homework.

A source that simply lists ideas without providing evidence or justifying how the evidence supports its conclusions is likely not a source that meets the rigor needed for an academic argument. While later chapters will go into the subject in greater detail, these guidelines suggest that in general, news media are not ideal sources. Neither are activist webpages, nor are blogs or government outlets. As later chapters will explore, all of these “sources” are not in fact sources of information. Inevitably, these documents to not create information, they simply report it. Instead, finding the original studies (performed by experts, typically controlled for bias, and reviewed by other experts before being published) is a much better alternative.

Examining Sources Using the Toulmin Model

On most issues, contradictory evidence exists and the researcher must review the options in a way that establishes one piece of evidence as more verifiable, or as otherwise preferable, to the other.  In essence, researchers must be able to compare arguments to one another.

Stephen Toulmin introduced a model of analyzing arguments that broke arguments down into three essential components and three additional factors. His model provides a widely-used and accessible means of both studying and drafting arguments.

chapter two of research work

The Toulmin model can be complicated with three other components, as well: backing, rebuttals, and qualifiers. Backing represents support of the data (e.g. ‘the thermostat has always been reliable in the past’ or ‘these studies have been replicated dozens of times with many different populations’). Rebuttals, on the other hand, admit limits to the argument (e.g. ‘unless the thermostat is broken’ or ‘if you care about your long-term health’). Finally, qualifiers indicate how certain someone is about the argument (e.g. ‘it is definitely too cold in here’ is different than ‘it might be too cold in here’; likewise, ‘you might want to stop smoking’ is a lot less forceful than ‘you absolutely should stop smoking’).

At a minimum, an argument (either one made by the student or by a source being evaluated) should have all three of the primary components, even if they are incorporated together. However, most developed arguments (even short answers on tests or simple blog posts) should have all six elements in place. If they are missing, it is up to the reader to go looking for what is missing and to try to figure out why it might have been left out.

Here is an example of an underdeveloped argument that is simply phrased like an absolute claim of fact. It is a poor argument, in that it offers none of the rationale behind what it says—it just insists that it is correct:

“Other countries hate the United States for a reason.”

What other countries? What reason? Is it just one reason, or is it one reason per country?

By contrast, here is an argument that has at least some minimal development:

“In the eyes of many (Qualifier), the United States has earned the hatred of other countries (Claim). The U.S. involvement in Iranian politics alone has earned the country criticism (Data). By helping to overthrow a democratically elected leader in favor of a monarch in 1953, the U.S. acted in a manner that seemed hypocritical and self-interested (Backing). While many countries do act in favor of their own interests (Rebuttal), the U.S. publicly championing democracy while covertly acting against it serves to justify criticism of the country (Warrant).”

Is there room to disagree with this argument? Yes. However, this argument provides its rationale, it offers at least some sort of evidence for its claims, and it provides a place to begin engagement. A researcher who wishes to know more about this argument can go looking into the history of U.S.-Iran relations, for example.

When reviewing a source, or making their own arguments, researchers should consider the following questions. Is there evidence that can be verified and examined by others (in the same spirit as the scientific method)? More specifically:

  • What is the claim?
  • What data backs up this claim?
  • What assumptions do I have to make to consider this evidence to be adequate support?

The various pieces of data which support claims in the Toulmin model are often called into question.  Studies are refuted, statistics countered with rival numbers, and their applicability to the claim in question is often murky.  Evidence—whether offered as matters of fact or as subjective considerations—does not exist in a vacuum.  Data are themselves claims.  If the supporting data are accepted as true, the argument has a generally accepted conclusion.  Such pieces of ‘evidence’ are contentions .

Although Toulmin distinguishes between qualifiers and rebuttal conditions, such a distinction is difficult to maintain in practice.  The important consideration—the one acknowledged by both terms—is that unconditional or absolute claims are difficult to support.  Specific fields have their own ways of hedging their bets.  Science has its error bar (Sagan) and the terminology of probability.  Statistics and polling have a margin of error.  Ethnography has its confrontation of personal bias.  When a rhetor expresses the limitations of a given claim, when the unconditional becomes conditional, claims become more than categorical propositions or thesis statements.  They become arguments.

Example 1:  Here is a minimalistic overview of one claim on the topic of traffic cameras.

  • Claim = Traffic cameras increase minor accidents
  • Evidence = David Kidwell and Alex Richards of The Chicago Tribune performed a study that was later cited by ABC News.
  • Assumptions = This study was conducted honestly and reasonably represents the reality of accidents around these cameras (i.e. I can trust the agenda and the methods of the Chicago Tribune staff).

Example 2 : And here is a second claim on the same subject.

  • Claim = The types of accidents by traffic cameras tend to be less severe
  • Evidence = The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examined national trends and compared medical reports, police reports, and various bills, posting the results on their website.
  • Assumptions = If the IIHS has a bias, it would be toward fewer accidents, or at least less severe accidents (because this means they have to pay less money out).

As an Essay Fragment : According to some, traffic cameras actually increase accidents. A study conducted by the Chicago Tribune found that rear-end collisions increased when traffic cameras were installed, meaning that they make things worse, not better (Kidwell and Richards). However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety points out that while there are sometimes increases in minor collisions, the number of crashes resulting in injuries actually decreases.

  • “According to…not better (Kidwell and Richards).” This uses a parenthetical source citation to provide a “link” to the evidence and to invite readers to examine both the data and the warrants.
  • “However, the…decreases.” This uses a signal statement to introduce the source of the evidence first, often because the source has so much credibility the author is hoping to impress the reader.

Note that this is not a particularly powerful fragment–it is simply the  minimum level of rigor that a student should offer (or look for) in an academic essay or in an academic source.

Academic arguments typically make concessions.  These concessions help define the scope of the argument and the range of the inquiry.  In Section 1, I mentioned a relatively straightforward value claim: “Plan X is bad.”  Argumentation engages such value claims and defines their scope and limits.  Who is plan X bad for?  By what standards?  Why then is anyone in favor of plan X?  A more practical approach could be “If you favor Y, then Plan X is bad.”  This is a concession, of sorts—Plan X is only bad if you favor Y.  The argument admits that if you do not, then Plan X might not be all that bad, after all.

Such a concession, worded in such a way, has added merit.  It functions as what Aristotle would have called an artistic proof, although maybe not an enthymeme.  It establishes a bond between the rhetor and the audience through the shared favoring of Y; it nurtures consubtantiality—the basis of what Burke calls identification.  Clearly, concessions can be made in a way that both prevents some counterarguments from applying and still furthers a rhetorical point.

Such phrasing is practical, and only truly cynical interrogators would consider it sinister.  An inversion of this approach is possible.  “Unless you favor Y, Plan X is bad.”  So long as Y is sufficiently negative in the minds of the audience, the rhetor loses no actual impact here.  Here, connecting Y to X might require substantiation on the part of the rhetor, because the concession has become, itself, a justification of why X is bad (it is related to or involves Y).  The additional rhetorical power—gained through positive and negative associations—often compensates for such additional effort.

Research, Evidence, and Written Arguments Copyright © by jsunderb. All Rights Reserved.

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Module 2 Chapter 2: The Link Between Theory, Research, and Social Justice

Theory has been mentioned several times in Chapter 1 discussions. In this chapter, we explore the relationship between theory and research, paying particular attention to how theory and research relate to promoting social justice.

In this chapter you will read about:

  • Why theory matters to social work
  • How theory and research relate to social justice

The Significance of Theory

It is helpful to begin with thinking about what theory  is. Theory is defined as a belief, idea, or set of principles that explain something—the set of principles may be organized in a complex manner or may be quite simple in nature. Theories are not facts; they are conjectures and predictions that need to be tested for their goodness-of-fit with reality. A scientific theory is an explanation supported by empirical evidence. Therefore, scientific theory is based on careful, reasonable examination of facts, and theories are tested and confirmed for their ability to explain and predict the phenomena of interest.

Theory is central to the development of social work interventions, as it determines the nature of our solutions to identified problems. Consider an example whereby programmatic and social policy responses might be influenced by the way that a problem like teen pregnancy is defined and the theories about the problem. In Table 2-1 you can see different definitions or theories of the problem on the left, and the logical responses on the right. In many cases, the boxes on the right can also be supplemented with content from other boxes addressing other problem definitions or theories.

Table 2-1. Analysis of teen pregnancy: How defining a problem determines responses

Hopefully, through this example, you can see how the way we define a problem and our theories about its causes determines the types of solutions we develop. Solutions are also dependent on whether they are feasible, practical, reasonable, ethical, culturally appropriate, and politically acceptable.

Theory, Research, and Social Justice

Theory is integral to research and research is integral to theory. Theory guides the development of many research questions and research helps generate new theories, as well as determining whether support for theories exists. What is important to remember is that theory is not fact: it is a belief about how things work; theory is a belief or “best guess” that awaits the support of empirical evidence.

“The best theories are those that have been substantiated or validated in the real world by research studies” (Dudley, 2011, p. 6).

Countless theories exist, and some are more well-developed and well-defined than others. More mature theories have had more time and effort devoted to supporting research, newer theories may be more tentative as supporting evidence is being developed. Theories are sometimes disproven and need to be scrapped completely or heavily overhauled as new research evidence emerges. And, exploratory research leads to the birth of new theories as new phenomena and questions arise, or as practitioners discover ways that existing theory does not fit reality.

Examples of theories and theoretical models with which you may have become familiar in other coursework are developed, tested, and applied in research from multiple disciplines, including social work. You may be familiar with the concepts of multidisciplinary  and interdisciplinary  practice, research and theory, but you also might be interested to learn the concept of transdisciplinary  research and theory. The social work profession engages in all three, as described in Figure 2-1.

Figure 2-1. Comparison of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary as concepts


An example of transdisciplinarity is demonstrated in motivational interviewing. The principles and practice of motivational interviewing skills transcends disciplines—it is relevant and effective regardless of a practitioner’s discipline and regardless of which discipline is conducting research that provides supporting evidence. An example of interdisciplinarity is when social workers, nurses, pediatricians, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists work together to create a system for reducing infants’ and young children’s environmental exposure to heavy metal contamination in their home, childcare, recreational, food and water (e.g., lead and mercury). An example of multidisciplinarity is when a pediatrician, nurse, occupational therapist, social worker, and physical therapist each deliver discipline-specific services to children with intellectual disabilities.

Here are examples of theories that you may have encountered or eventually will encounter in your career:

  • behavioral theory
  • cognitive theory
  • conflict theory
  • contact theory (groups)
  • critical race theory
  • developmental theory (families)
  • developmental theory (individuals)
  • feminist theory
  • health beliefs model
  • information processing theory
  • learning theory
  • lifecourse or lifespan theory
  • neurobiology theories
  • organizational theory
  • psychoanalytic theory
  • role theory
  • social capital model
  • social ecological theory
  • social learning theory
  • social network theory
  • stress vulnerability model
  • systems theory
  • theory of reasoned action/planned behavior
  • transtheoretical model of behavior change

Social work practitioners generate new theories in the field all the time, but these theories are rarely documented or systematicallyl tested. Applying systematic research methods to test these practice-generated theories can help expand the social work knowledge base. Well-developed theories must be testable through the application of research methods. Furthermore, they both supplement and complement other theories that have the support of strong evidence behind them. In addition to these points, for theories to be relevant to social work, they need to:

  • have practice implications at one or more level of intervention—suggest principles of action;
  • be responsive to human diversity;
  • contribute to the promotion of social justice (Dudley, 2011).

Social Justice and The Grand Challenges for Social Work .  In 2016, the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW) rolled out a set of 12 initiatives, challenging the social work profession to develop strategies for having a significant impact on a broad set of problems challenging the nation: “their introduction truly has the potential to be a defining moment in the history of our profession” (Williams, 2016, p. 67). The Grand Challenges directly relate to content presented in the Preamble to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (2017):

The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s dual focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living (p. 1).

The ambitious Grand Challenges ( http://aaswsw.org/grand-challenges-initiative/12-challenges/ ) call for a synthesis of research and evidence generating endeavors, social work education, and social work practice (at all levels), with promoting social justice and transforming society at the forefront of attention. None of the Grand Challenges can be achieved without collaboration between social work researchers, practitioners, key stakeholders/constituents, policy makers, and members of other professions and disciplines (see Table 2-2). Each of the papers published under the 12 umbrella challenges not only reviews evidence related to the challenge, but also identifies a research and action agenda for promoting change and achieving the stated challenge goals.

Table 2-2. 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work

Theory and its related research is presented in the literature of social work and other disciplines. Being able to locate the relevant literature is an important skill for social work professionals and researchers to master. The next chapter introduces some basic principles about identifying literature that informs us about theory and the research that leads to the development of new theories and the testing of existing theories.

Using Data to Support Social Justice Advocac y

It is one thing to collect data, statistics, and information about the dimensions of a social problem; it is another to apply those data, statistics, and information in action to promote social change around an identified social justice cause. Advocacy is one tool or role important to the social work profession since its earliest days. Data and empirical evidence should routinely support social workers’ social justice advocacy efforts at the micro level—when working with specific client systems (case advocacy). Social justice advocacy also is a macro-level practice (cause advocacy), one that often involves the use of data to raise awareness about a cause, establish change goals, and evaluate the impact of change efforts. Consider, for example, the impact of data on social justice advocacy related to opioid misuse and addiction across the United States. Data regarding the sharp, upward trend in opioid-related deaths have had a powerful impact on public awareness, having captivated the attention of mass media outlets. These are data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the period 1999 to 2016 (see Figure 2-2). The death rate from opioid overdose increased remarkably in the most recent years depicted, including heroin, natural and semisynthetic (morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone), and synthetic opioids (fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, tramadol); the rate declined somewhat for deaths related to methadone, a highly controlled prescription medication used to treat opioid addiction (Hedegaard, Warner, & Miniño, 2017). In 2016 the overdose death rate was more than triple the 1999 rate and surpassed all other causes of death (including homicide and automobile crashes) for persons aged 50 or younger (Vestal, 2018). The good news is that the rates dropped significantly across 14 states during 2017 as new policy approaches were implemented—including more widespread use and access to naloxone (an opioid overdose reversal drug). The bad news is that the opioid overdose death rates increased significantly across 5 states and the District of Columbia as fentanyl and related drugs became integrated into the illicit drug supply: “Nationally, the death toll is still rising” (Vestal, 2018, p. 1). The Ohio Department of Health, with Ohio being one of the 5 states with more than a 30% increase in opioid overdose deaths, now recommends that naloxone be used more widely in overdose situations, whether or not opioids are known to be involved.

Figure 2-2. Opioid drug overdose death rate trends 1999-2016, by opioid category


Having data of this sort available to argue the urgency of a cause is of tremendous value. Imagine the potential impact of data on social issues such as child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, human trafficking, and death by suicide. Imagine also the potential impact of data concerning disparities in health, incarceration, mental and traumatic stress disorders, and educational or employment achievement across members of different racial/ethnic, age, economic, and national origin groups. This type of evidence has the potential to be a powerful element in the practice of social justice advocacy.

Stop and Think

Follow links below to specific AASWSW Grand Challenges and consider the ways that research evidence is being used to advocate for at least one of the following social justice causes:

  • Health Equity: Eradicating Health Inequalities for Future Generations
  • From Mass Incarceration to Smart Decarceration
  • Safe Children: Reducing Severe and Fatal Maltreatment
  • Ending Gender Based Violence: A Grand Challenge for Social Work
  • Prevention of Schizophrenia and Severe Mental Illness
  • Increasing Productive Engagement in Later Life
  • Strengthening the Social Responses to the Human Impacts of Environmental Change

Social Work 3401 Coursebook Copyright © by Dr. Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Book cover

International Conference on Modeling, Simulation and Optimization

CoMSO 2022: Modeling, Simulation and Optimization pp 267–276 Cite as

A Compact Microstrip Hexagonal Patch Antenna with a Slotted Ground Plane for RF Energy Harvesting Applications

  • Pradeep S. Chindhi 8 ,
  • H. P. Rajani 9 &
  • Geeta Kalkhambkar 8  
  • Conference paper
  • First Online: 20 February 2024

Part of the Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies book series (SIST,volume 373)

In this research work, a hexagonal shape microstrip patch antenna has been introduced to work for two 5G frequency bands, n78 (3300–3800 MHz) and n77 (3300–4200 MHz) for radio frequency (RF) energy harvesting applications. The resonant frequency for the 5G n78 and 5G n77 bands is 3.55 GHz and 3.75 GHz, respectively. To improve the characteristics of the antenna at the anticipated resonant frequency, a hexagonal shape slot is embedded in the ground plane. A working bandwidth of 2.0 GHz (2.80–4.88 GHz) cantered at 3.7 GHz (5G n77), is achieved. The proposed antenna exhibits a bidirectional radiation pattern with a peak gain of 3.74 dBi at 3.7 GHz. The height of the FR4 substrate is set constant at 1.6 mm. A comparative study has been performed on different substrate materials to know the effect of dielectric properties on the proposed hexagonal-shaped microstrip patch antenna (HSMPA).

  • RF energy harvesting

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Zhang, J., Bai, X., Han, W., Zhao, B., Xu, L., Wei, J.: The design of radio frequency energy harvesting and radio frequency-based wireless power transfer system for battery-less self-sustaining applications. Int. J. RF Microw. Comput. Aided Eng. e21658 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1002/mmce.21658

Chindhi, P., Rajani, H.P., Kalkhambkar, G.: A spurious free dual band microstrip patch antenna for radio frequency energy harvesting. Indian J. Sci. Technol. 15 (7), 266–275 (2022). https://doi.org/10.17485/IJST/v15i7.2025

Chindhi, P., Rajani, H. P., Kalkhambkar, G., Kandasamy, N.: A compact corner truncated microstrip patch antenna for radio frequency energy harvesting to low power electronic devices and wireless sensors. Printed Antennas: Design and Challenges (2022). (n.p.): CRC Press. SBN: 9781000801125, 1000801128. https://doi.org/10.1201/9781003347057-4

Olowoleni, J.O., Awosope, C.O.A., Adoghe, A.U., Obinna, O., Udo, U.E.: Design and simulation of a novel 3- point star rectifying antenna for RF energy harvesting at 2.4 GHz. Cogent Eng. 8 , 1943153 (2021)

Google Scholar  

Chindhi, P.S., Rajani, H.P., Kalkhambkar, G.B., Khanai, R.: Characteristics mode analysis of modified inset-fed microstrip antenna for radio frequency energy harvesting. Biosc. Biotech. Res. Comm. 13 (13), 171–176 (2020). https://doi.org/10.21786/bbrc/13.13/24

Savitri, I., Anwar, R., Amrullah, Y.S., Nurmantris, D.A.: Development of large aperture microstrip antenna for radio wave energy harvesting. Prog. Electromagnet. Res. Lett. 74 , 137–143, (2018). https://doi.org/10.2528/PIERL18030305 , http://www.jpier.org/PIERL/pier.php?paper=18030305

Ojha, S.S., Singhal, P.K., Thakare, V.V.: Dual-band rectenna system for biomedical wireless applications. Meas. Sens. 24 , 100532 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.measen.2022.100532

Surender, D., Khan, T., Talukdar, F.A.: A hexagonal-shaped Microstrip patch antenna with notch included partial ground plane for 2.45 GHz Wi-Fi Band RF energy harvesting applications. In: 2020 7th International Conference on Signal Processing and Integrated Networks (SPIN), pp. 966–969 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1109/SPIN48934.2020.9071389

Surender, D., Khan, T., Talukdar, F.A.: A pentagon-shaped Microstrip patch antenna with slotted ground plane for RF energy harvesting. In: 2020 URSI Regional Conference on Radio Science ( URSI-RCRS), pp. 1–4 (2020). https://doi.org/10.23919/URSIRCRS49211.2020.9113536

Pandey, R., Shankhwar, A.K., Singh, A.: Design and analysis of Rectenna at 2.42 GHz for Wi-Fi energy harvesting. Prog. Electromagnet. Res. C 117 , 89–98 (2021). https://doi.org/10.2528/PIERC21100409 , http://www.jpier.org/PIERC/pier.php?paper=21100409

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Chindhi, P.S., Rajani, H.P., Kalkhambkar, G. (2024). A Compact Microstrip Hexagonal Patch Antenna with a Slotted Ground Plane for RF Energy Harvesting Applications. In: Das, B., Patgiri, R., Bandyopadhyay, S., Balas, V.E., Roy, S. (eds) Modeling, Simulation and Optimization. CoMSO 2022. Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies, vol 373. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-6866-4_19

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EU AI Act: first regulation on artificial intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence in the EU will be regulated by the AI Act, the world’s first comprehensive AI law. Find out how it will protect you.

A man faces a computer generated figure with programming language in the background

As part of its digital strategy , the EU wants to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure better conditions for the development and use of this innovative technology. AI can create many benefits , such as better healthcare; safer and cleaner transport; more efficient manufacturing; and cheaper and more sustainable energy.

In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. Once approved, these will be the world’s first rules on AI.

Learn more about what artificial intelligence is and how it is used

What Parliament wants in AI legislation

Parliament’s priority is to make sure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly. AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.

Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that could be applied to future AI systems.

Learn more about Parliament’s work on AI and its vision for AI’s future

AI Act: different rules for different risk levels

The new rules establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk from artificial intelligence. While many AI systems pose minimal risk, they need to be assessed.

Unacceptable risk

Unacceptable risk AI systems are systems considered a threat to people and will be banned. They include:

  • Cognitive behavioural manipulation of people or specific vulnerable groups: for example voice-activated toys that encourage dangerous behaviour in children
  • Social scoring: classifying people based on behaviour, socio-economic status or personal characteristics
  • Biometric identification and categorisation of people
  • Real-time and remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition

Some exceptions may be allowed for law enforcement purposes. “Real-time” remote biometric identification systems will be allowed in a limited number of serious cases, while “post” remote biometric identification systems, where identification occurs after a significant delay, will be allowed to prosecute serious crimes and only after court approval.

AI systems that negatively affect safety or fundamental rights will be considered high risk and will be divided into two categories:

1) AI systems that are used in products falling under the EU’s product safety legislation . This includes toys, aviation, cars, medical devices and lifts.

2) AI systems falling into specific areas that will have to be registered in an EU database:

  • Management and operation of critical infrastructure
  • Education and vocational training
  • Employment, worker management and access to self-employment
  • Access to and enjoyment of essential private services and public services and benefits
  • Law enforcement
  • Migration, asylum and border control management
  • Assistance in legal interpretation and application of the law.

All high-risk AI systems will be assessed before being put on the market and also throughout their lifecycle.

General purpose and generative AI

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, would have to comply with transparency requirements:

  • Disclosing that the content was generated by AI
  • Designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content
  • Publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training

High-impact general-purpose AI models that might pose systemic risk, such as the more advanced AI model GPT-4, would have to undergo thorough evaluations and any serious incidents would have to be reported to the European Commission.

Limited risk

Limited risk AI systems should comply with minimal transparency requirements that would allow users to make informed decisions. After interacting with the applications, the user can then decide whether they want to continue using it. Users should be made aware when they are interacting with AI. This includes AI systems that generate or manipulate image, audio or video content, for example deepfakes.

On December 9 2023, Parliament reached a provisional agreement with the Council on the AI act . The agreed text will now have to be formally adopted by both Parliament and Council to become EU law. Before all MEPs have their say on the agreement, Parliament’s internal market and civil liberties committees will vote on it.

More on the EU’s digital measures

  • Cryptocurrency dangers and the benefits of EU legislation
  • Fighting cybercrime: new EU cybersecurity laws explained
  • Boosting data sharing in the EU: what are the benefits?
  • EU Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act
  • Five ways the European Parliament wants to protect online gamers
  • Artificial Intelligence Act

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    Chapter 2 Review Of Related Literature This chapter will provide related literature that the researcher deemed relevant to further strengthen the importance of our study.. What is E-Learning/Online learning E-learning is exclusively defined as "instructional content or learning experiences delivered or enabled by electronic technology" (Servage, 2005:306).

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