Unfortunately many people hate doing the literature review, and as a result, want it to end very quickly. I used to feel this way to, however I learned to enjoy it. Once you enjoy doing something life suddenly becomes a lot easier. Problems with motivation and organization are much reduced because you don’t have to force yourself to do the work. You don’t have time management problems because you can work for longer, without necessarily realizing it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offering a magic bullet here, if it is possible (which I doubt) to go from hating the literature review to loving it, then I don’t know how it’s done. However, what I know is that enjoyment is not all or nothing. If you can learn to enjoy your literature review a little bit, then you can make your life a little bit easier – which is great!
So, how do you enjoy the literature review?
Well for me, it happened when I made a distinction between enjoyment and pleasure. This isn’t a real distinction but it helped me for the literature review. I thought of pleasure to mean something that I just instinctively liked. I take pleasure in travelling, eating nice food, playing football.
Enjoyment is something a little less obvious, but there are plenty of aspects of the literature that I enjoy. In fact, I always have enjoyed them. The problem is that I didn’t realize that I enjoyed them and I always dwelled on the aspects that I didn’t like. Instead of explaining, I’ll give you some examples.
The things I enjoy about the literature review are:
Understanding more about my subject
Fitting together the puzzle pieces to make a whole picture
The sense of achievement and satisfaction
Just writing these down made me realize that I could enjoy the writing process. I just had to find a way to make the aspects of the literature review I enjoyed, a focus for me. Each day I would ask how am a going to understand more about my subject? How am I going to fit another piece in this puzzle and how am I going to complete something today to give myself a sense of achievement? After a while I didn’t need to ask those questions, I just looked forward to getting started.
So, I’m not going to react the same way if someone says, “hey, do you want to go out for some ice cream?” as opposed to “hey, do you want to go out and do a literature review?” I’m going to go for the ice cream every time! However that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy doing a literature review. The fact is if you study a subject for a masters or PhD, you WILL enjoy aspects of the literature review or you wouldn’t be doing that subject. All you have to do is find out what those aspects are, make a list and focus on them. Try and do each thing on the list so you are doing something you enjoy every day as a part of your literature review.