In this post he reports about his (at the time he wrote the post) next steps for the PhD, He lists three courses he has to take at the university and explains ho he wants to approach the PhD Thesis.
Kai explains that he is going to do what is called a "Systematic Literature Review" (SLR. A systematic literature review is different from a normal Literature Review (LR) in the following points:
- Allows to analyze the current state of knowledge about a whole scientific Area, such as Software productivity (Kai's example) or Compliance Management (my example).
- It is easier to see what has been done in an area and what hasn't been done yet.
- It is easier to argue why a PhD Student took a certain direction, and why this direction of research will bring outcomes which are useful to the scientific community.
- It also easier to motivate the use of certain methods, tools or approaches.
- it typically covers a way wider scientific scope than a normal SOTA (State Of The Art) review since it doesn't seek to focus on a certain problematic as an efficiency criteria.
- "Systematic means that one has to document search strategy (keywords, search strings, scientific databases), paper selection criteria, paper evaluation criteria, how to synthesize the findings of the identified studies and so forth."
I was surprised. I had never heard of the clear specification of a Literature Review (LR) strategy. of course you have always your own strategy when conducting one, but it is only "in your head" and your are the only one who knows what you are really looking for. In addition, no one would bother to describe an LR´s strategy because it would not be of a direct use for the expected outcome of the LR. So I was very intrigued. I think that in the scope of a PhD Thesis, dressing strong, clear and most importantly far-reaching fundamentals for the dissertation is a requirement for the thesis. That's why I am really convinced of the utility of a Systematic Literature review (SLR).
The most interesting in this is that I have noticed my non-intended attempt at the beginning of my PhD to do the same for my Thesis. For example, my attempts to have a taxonomy of the domain were in the form of complex mind-maps. Unfortunately , Minds Maps do not scale wekll with complex research domains, you will need a structured approach using several mind maps on several layers of the same domain and use hyperlinks between the mind maps. But I thought (mostly due to comments from colleagues and my entourage) that I shouldn't go for it because it is just a waste of time and that I should focus a lot more on certain topics. Knowing my tendency to tackle a lot wider range of reources to solve one problem (which I call the Sponge Effect (SE) which I will come to later in this Blog), in an attempt to let no information escape my research I thought I had to stop it. But this is not the main reason.
The real reason is that doing a PhD in 3 years necessitates extremely focused work on getting results for a well defined problem. The main fear of a PhD student is not to be able to fully understand the problems he has to deal with and to need a lot more years to conduct his research than intended. This is the real reason why my working method has been to cluster the domain I am working on in sub-domains, and studying one of these sub-domains fully in order to achieve some results for this sub-domain. My strategy is to examine the results I get from my research on this first target sub-domain in comparison to the other sub-domains afterwards. And thus to be able to get a more global overview on my first intended target PhD Domain by criticizing, completing, correcting and extending initial results. Whether 3 years are enough for this, I really doubt. But hope keeps alive :D
Marwane El Kharbili