Introduction versus Lit Review

I have seen a few students recently who are struggling with the difference between a literature review and either a research proposal or an introduction.

In the psychology dept. the masters students were given guidance on this at the start of the year. However, it has come to my attention that many other students (including many who have not had the undergraduate experience of writing a dissertation, whether they be international students or joint honors students) are unclear on both what sets the projects apart and also the requirements for each.

I have adapted the advice that I was given and have created a document for the U Drive (U:) that should be more generic, with additional links to further support – please feel free to amend further if necessary.

The links provided within the document are shown below, they may be of use to those reading from a wider audience: – Online PDF – Online video tutorial


Writing an abstract for proposed research…

An abstract is used to present either proposed research or completed research to be published. Information on the latter is readily taught and readily available. However, in sessions recently I have noticed that abstract guidance for literature reviews or proposals is quite scarce. Also, it is around this time of year that students may be submitting such proposals, abstract included. Furthermore, writing an abstract for a proposal is an extremely important skill for the future as it may be required to obtain research funding (Black, 2014).

As opposed to a research dissertation abstract, writing a summary for a literature review or project proposal requires slightly different questions to be answered.

For a research proposal abstract the following elements are important (UNLV, 2013):

  1. A rationale for the choice of topic indicating its importance within the field or discipline for which you are writing.
  2. A brief summary of your review of the existing published work
  3. An outline of the intended approach or methodology
  4. Expected finding/s
  5. Implications of such finding/s

When writing an abstract for a literature review, the first two points above may be considered and described in more detail.

The word count of a proposal abstract can vary depending on the purpose of the summary. Within the university setting, for assignments, the guideline is usually around the 150-200 mark. However, for submissions to funding agencies students should be aware that the length of these abstracts depends on the requirements of the funding body and may be up to a page/500 words in length required. When affiliated with a company or presenting proposed research from a research group a WHO, WHAT, WHERE, HOW, WHEN and WHY approach is suggested as a way of covering all of the essentials about the work you intend to carry out (Biscoe, n.d.).


Web links to sources:

Black, C. (2014). Retrieved from:

Biscoe, B. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

UNLV writing centre. (2013). Retrieved from:



Creating academic/empirical posters

Hi guys,

I’ve had an interesting session on poster presentations and I’ve released that we have little information for how to format these or a basic outline for them in our resources.

Posters provide a way to give a clear and interesting summary of findings in a specific research area, usually produced to paper size A0

From doing a bit of research into this I have found that the key is to produce something:

  • Visually appealing – yet professional. It needs to attract visitors in a non garish manner.
  • Well organised – it should hold the audiences attention.
  • Informative – it should be something memorable.

On an A0 poster you should aim for no more than 1000-1100 words as a rough guide. The whole thing should be readable within 10 minutes.

Producing a sequence of columns will aid the reader’s progression through the research:

  • Introduction – typically the left-most column that should consist of brief background information and a specific hypothesis and research question.
  • Method – the second progression within the columns, containing the significant detail only – graphics may be useful here.
  • Results – these should lie in the middle, often being the largest section. Very important to visualize your data in figures and tables.
  • Conclusions – Reminder of the hypotheses and determination as to whether the findings were consistent with this. Mention of any future directions.

You may wish to include:

  • A crest or logo of the company/association the research is affiliated with
  • A reference list
  • Acknowledgements
  • Further contact details

In terms of style:

  • The poster should be easy to read
  • Sans serif font for large titles/figures
  • Serif font for body of text and figure captions
  • Stick to 2-3 colours and keep these consistent
  • The colours must create contrast to aid clarity

I’ll put these details into a document and save it as a resource. I have no internet link or reference for this information as it is adapted from a resource I was provided with in my course.

I hope it proves useful for someone if this comes up in any sessions again.

Critical Thinking

I’m currently working on producing a summary and review of the book Critical Thinking Skills by Stella Cottrell.

The introduction to this book provides a good opportunity for a reader to engage their brains about what critical thinking really means. Each chapter facilitates the readers development as a critical thinker and provides exercises and tasks that build on one another throughout the book. For our purposes in a mentoring session, the book provides a useful method for approaching critical thinking and writing, suggesting that a writer should first learn to identify arguments within a text before going on to develop their own critical writing skills. The first 9 chapters focus on reading a source and developing evaluative skills and the ability to select appropriate sources. Chapter 10 covers the act of writing critically, and takes the writer through various approaches depending on the nature of the assignment a writer is preparing (essay vs reports/dissertations). Furthermore, chapter 11 then provides additional practice to enable a writer to identify the characteristics of good critical writing, it does this by providing examples and then sets tasks based upon these. The final chapter discusses critical reflection, a technique often employed by those students who bring attention back to their own experience.

Additionally, I am currently using this book as a resource to form a mini guide to critical thinking which I will add to as I do more extended reading.

Cottrell, S. 2011. Critical thinking skills: Developing effective analysis and argument. Palgrave Macmillan.