Hey there, it’s me, Lena… I’m back! You’ve probably been wondering what I was up to, weren’t you? I am afraid to tell you, it was nothing that justifies not writing for two weeks or so.
So, what has occupied me? Well, there was that whole frantic week of getting the research proposal together and delivering a convincing presentation (plus exams and illness, mind you). So that’s been conquered but, since I am officially a German/Australian and not the other way around – I’m not a ‘Slashie-Award‘ laureate yet, in case you’re wondering – that was just the beginning to my maddening schedule.
Exams, a flu, a case of man flu, a business conference, a UNSW meeting, another exam, a 3-day PASS conference, a trip to Moss Vale, a trip to Sydney and an application for Club of the Year later, here we are… I finally have time to tell you more about this thing called hedonic adaptation.
So, my research proposal and presentation went well. People seemed not to object too much, which is good to hear (or maybe they just gave up on me). Since then, I have to confess, not much work has been done on my project. But hey, you just heard about my schedule, right? I have not exactly been flush with spare time… The plan is to get back into it as soon as my last exam (today!!!) is out of the way.
In the meantime, though, let’s talk literature review. I have just written a preliminary version of mine and I am glad it’s done, at least for now. Literature reviews are tedious, let me tell you. So why do we even need them?
Well, I guess the big argument in favour of a lit review (so it is lovingly known to its friends) is justification for your research. You want to let people know what others have done and then indicate where they went wrong, or what they have missed – that’s where you, knight in shining armour, step in. You explain why your research is relevant and why we need you to conduct it – you may even want to attract funding at this stage, which makes the whole lit review process even more important.
Evil tongues, however, may argue that a lit review is a waste of time. If a researcher really wanted to, she could easily fool everyone and conduct a study that had been done before. Careful choice is the key – as long as you don’t pick a well-known, oft-quoted paper, you probably succeed pretending it is your own idea. If you’re smart about it and don’t reference any articles mentioning your chosen study, and check it doesn’t appear as the first result when searching Google Scholar, you probably will be fine. Don’t take this as advice or as a confession, of course I’m not condoning such action. Just saying it could be done…
In my case, writing a lit review was aiding to inform myself about my chosen research area – what had been done, which data sets had been used previously, was my idea feasible and, equally important, was it still novel? My lit review actually helped me acquire an extensive background on hedonic adaptation, which, I think, is very valuable. You really want to know what you’re talking about when telling others about your research – I’m definitely not a fan of being exposed in my lack of knowledge, especially when it comes to my chosen topic.
Having said that, I guess it wasn’t necessary to write a lit review – it was merely important for me to know my research area and be familiar with previous studies. So what’s the point in writing it? To signal to others that I can do this? To justify my research? But then we end up back at the first argument against literature reviews…
Another reason for writing a lit review (one I benefited from a lot) is to get an idea of how to conduct your study – that is, how to set it up, which program to use, which model to use, etc. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a paper which almost exactly addresses my research questions, but uses different data (the SOEP, which is basically the German big sister of HILDA) and different variables.
This study, by Uglanova et all, uses an entity fixed effects model to measure hedonic adaptation, looking at marriage, child birth, unemployment, widowhood and divorce – all those non-random variables I was telling you about earlier. Just as I plan to, this study measures the initial effect of those events on life satisfaction and then estimates the trajectory of each, modeling the return to baseline satisfaction. This paper basically told me all I need to know – which model I should use, which control variables I need, etc..The only aspect it can’t assist me with is the actual creation of the model – but I’m sure I can work that out.
For all of you who do not wish to read my lit review, here’s my reason for conducting this research. As I said in earlier posts, my criticism on Uglanova’s paper is the non-randomness of the variables used to estimate a change in satisfaction. Since they are anticipated, the effect of an event is diminished – our estimated coefficients are biased. I therefore will only regard random events in my study, foregoing this source of error and hopefully contributing a small piece to the happiness-research-world.
So, to answer the question posed earlier: Is a lit review worth writing? All in all, I believe that mine has brought me closer to my area of interest. Sure, it was tough at times and I really did not feel like reading that one-millionth article on happiness research, but I do think I gained a lot of knowledge from it. And hey, I’m sure these newly developed lit review-writing-skills will come in handy during my Honours year!