As we saw in Wendy’s interview, it’s important to make sure that you’re not going it alone while doing your literature review.
But it’s not always possible to knock on the door of your adviser at 11pm when you’re feeling blocked. So you need a plan B.
The thing is, there are tons of places where you can find some online support, even late at night. And here are some suggestions for you to have a look at.
Your library’s website
Go to your university library website and have a look around.
If you’ve got a specific question, you might be able to open a chatbox to talk directly with a librarian.
Does your university’s VLE (virtual learning environment: the online space where you’ll find information about your course) have a forum feature? Use it to get in contact with other students and exchange with tutors.
If not, you can try and find forums on your specific topic with a simple Google search.
There are also some generalist forums that you can have a look at such as:
Are you on Twitter yet? If not, you really should! I’m not going to give you a complete rundown on how to use Twitter for academic purposes today, but let’s focus on two especially great hashtags where you will be able to find great support.
You can use this hashtag to talk about your PhD and ask questions to others.
Regular “live” chatting sessions are organised on #PhDChat. You will find more information on Thesis Whisperer.
This is the hastag you need to use to discuss academic writing. A live chat using this hashtag is organised every fortnight by Dr Jeremy Segrott and PhD2Published.
You will find more information on PhD2Published.
Note: To see what’s happening around a hashtag, type it in Twitter’s search box: you will see recent tweets that used the tag. You can then participate by answering other people’s questions or asking yours while including the hashtag to your tweet.
Using a tool such as Tweetdeck of Hootsuite will enable you to follow one or several hashtags very easily by adding a search “column” to your dashboard.
A great way to communicate with others and get support is to join a Facebook group.
Do a simple search using Facebook’s engine to find groups about your field, about the literature review, about doing a PhD, etc.
Following blogs is a great way to keep motivated by reading about other people’s experience.
Search for blogs from people in the same situation as you. (Postgraduate student in geology? Here you go. Doing a PhD in victorian history? Have a look here. Want to hear more about fashion in academia? You’re very welcome.) There are tons for you to find out!
There are also many blogs (such as this one…) focusing on more technical parts of the work, and which will directly help you with your literature search, academic writing, and more.
Here are my favourites:
Need I say more? Read from the beginning to learn about Ben’s literature review débuts, or just check out his regular articles that will help you writing your own literature review.
An indispensable site for anybody writing a thesis, by Dr Inger Mewburn. While it’s not directly a site about the literature review, it addresses many of its aspects, on top of all of its useful posts about the PhD thesis.
You might be particularly interested in the “On Writing” category.
If you’re only reading one blog about academic writing, it needs to be Pat Thomson’s. She is a great expert on the topic and constantly (I mean constantly! As in everyday or every few days) blogs about writing.
You absolutely need to read her posts tagged “literature review”.
Even though it’s aimed at veterinary master’s students, this blog is absolutely great for any postgraduate wanting to learn more about research and writing skills. Every week, you will find an eminently practical article that you can put into practice right away!
James might not be posting as often as some, but when he does, his posts are always of great value! Check out here the complete list of all the posts he’s written and pay particular attention to the sections “On Academic Literature and Lit Reviews” an “On Writing”.
On this blog, Jenn has been recording her dissertation journey and now her work as a lecturer. It’s been many years since she started writing it but she still maintains it regularly.
You might be particularly interested in her “literature review” category.
Now, it’s your turn: share your favourite ways to find support online in the comments!