Research Methods for Ph. D. Studies: Literature Study

Concentrated girl studying in library, preparing for exams, having break in reading educational literature


I believe some students shy away from studies for a Ph. D. because they don’t like reading.

Especially reading academic books is boring, they say.

I agree, especially if you don’t have any specific question that you need an answer for.

Or an academic problem to solve.

Some students believe that there are many more exciting things that they can do rather than to read.

Studying late at night, over weekends, public holidays and university holidays is not cool.

Well, I don’t know.

Perhaps it takes a special kind of person, or some alien external force to motivate people to study.

Because, let there be no uncertainty in your mind – if you embark on Ph. D. studies you will need to sacrifice some of your social obligations.

That does not mean that you will need to live like a recluse.

It only means that you might need to choose friends that share your interests.

Or, perhaps, friends that are completely different from you, but who understand your need for some intellectual stimulation.

And still want you as a friend, even though you can’t always join them for a party.

The point is this – as an adult you are the captain of your ship.

Only you can decide what you should do with your life.

You need to be absolutely motivated to study for a Ph. D., else you will be wasting your time and money.

Because you can purchase a fake Ph. D. for much less than what it will cost you to enroll for a real Ph. D. with a good university.

And if you are not happy with the fact that you will need to learn something special, you can just as well buy that fake certificate.

Because without learning the real certificate is worthless anyway.

And you will need to make peace with the fact that you will need to read a lot.

So, let’s discuss literature study.

Literature study

Literature study will form part of most research work, regardless of what main research methods is used.

With the expansion of online data sources, it is becoming progressively more possible to undertake research without leaving your study or office.

You can even do research while having something to eat and drink in a restaurant or a bar.

Texts and records can be researched in four distinct ways:

  1. The study of content.
  2. The social construction of documents and records.
  3. Documents ‘in the field’
  4. Documents in action and documents in networks.

However, doing all your research by studying documents is deskwork rather than fieldwork.

When documents are included in the dataset, they tend to serve as ‘background material’.

Literature is often used to crosscheck oral accounts.

The empirical opportunities to analyse documents are endless: newspaper articles, advertisements, policy documents, government reports, blogs and web sites, schedules, letters, posters, pamphlets, brochures, campaign material, etc.

Everyday life offers a range of situations that involve forms and documents.

Particularly regarding interpersonal encounters within various institutions.

Even so, researchers interested in identifying practical examples may find it hard to recognize relevant events in a pile of documents.

The majority view of documentary data in qualitative research is that documents are detached from social action.

In contrast to an interview, the document appears more stable and fixed, whereas the content of an interview seems more fuzzy, dynamic and alive.

Documents can be quite lively agents in their own right, rather than merely containers of text.

They can tell people what to do.

They can stir up conflicts.

They can evoke emotions such as anger, relief, envy, pride and despair.

Additionally, people do things with documents.

They can use them for various purposes, both intended or unintended.

They exchange documents.

They hide documents.

They write books and make movies about documents.

In order to recognize the aspects of documentary data, fieldwork rather than deskwork is required.


All researchers must do some literature study, regardless of which research approach of method they mainly use.

Texts and records are studied for the content, social construction, corroboration of other research methods and to support action research.

Literature study mostly means reading and analyzing books and other documents.

It can also include doing research on the internet.

Documents often trigger chains of interaction far beyond the original piece of paper.

Literature is often used to confirm research through other research methods.

Some researchers would rather do without literature study.

They prefer practical fieldwork or research in a laboratory that is not contaminated by old data.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.