Is your literature review like an Olympic sport?

Literature review olympic symbolOk so the Olympics is over (booo). It has certainly been my main method of procrastination over the last few weeks. I don’t know why, but I found myself yet again drawing parallels between something completely unrelated, and the literature review.

The usual warning applies here, this is probably a bit geeky and weird so if you’re a sensitive soul, you should probably not read any further.

Still with me? Good, here we go…


Are you a marathon runner or a sprinter? Do you like to plod along steadily, or do you like to do all your work in small bursts? This is something I’ve already written about on The Thesis Whisperer.


You don’t see writing as one skill you have to learn but 10! You don’t just have to learn them either, you have to master them. You may not be the best in the world at either one, but put them together and you’ll write a mean literature review.

Shooting / Archery

Writing for you requires complete calm and it’s essential to be accurate.

Shot put

Getting anywhere is like moving a huge rock. Good news is it’s possible, with the right technique.

Pole vault

Lets be honest this is a bit precarious. You know it’s possible, you can see how to do it but one false move and you may find yourself impaled on your own literature review.


The literature review is a genuine fight. You struggle for quite a long time but once you find a way in…Boom, it’s over and you win!


Slightly different from Judo, you and your literature review both get the the S*** punched out of you. It’s hard work, you feel bad and none of you look pretty at the end. However, one of you has to win – I’m sure you can outlast the literature review in the ring :)


You are graceful. Lucky you. You make it look easy, especially at showtime. In reality though, a lot of hard work goes in behind the scenes.


You do your bit and pass it on to someone else. Well, it’s not quite as easy as that. To be effective in a literature review relay, you have to get your timing exactly right. If you do, the literature review makes it all the way round and gets finished, if not, it will be left to languish somewhere on the track.


For you the literature review is fine, great even when the weather is good. You might even say it’s plain sailing. However when the weather gets worse and conditions get difficult, you have to wonder if you’re going to sink or not.

Steeple chase

Normally this is ok but sometimes, there are weird, large obstacles in your way that are difficult to get over. Not to mention the pools of water (seriously… why?!?).

Weight lifting

Anticipation, anticipation, anticipation, anticipation, ssss…..ssssstttttt….SSSTTRUGGLE…..relief.

So which one am I? Well, I know that I’d like to be a literary gymnast. I’m pretty sure I’m not there yet though. I’d say I started out as a weightlifting pole vaulter (not good). However now I see myself as more of a decathlete. I know there are lots of skills involved in writing and I think I know what they are. This means that I can gradually improve over time. That’s not to say there aren’t some days when I feel like a boxer!

Did I miss something

Let me know in the comments. Tell me what olympic event best describes your literature review approach.

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