Becoming an Expert in Your Topic Area

Becoming an Expert in Your Topic Area

Doctoral students earn their doctorate by demonstrating expertise in a topic area and by doing original research that contributes to knowledge and theory. These two requirements are stated in their logical order: You must be an expert in an area in order to do original research. You demonstrate expertise by showing that you know the literature, current and historical, in the area and that you are able to join discussions in the area by critically evaluating research and theory and taking reasoned stands on the issues in the area.

As you know, a study cannot be a dissertation study without a thorough literature review. Boote and Beile (2005) wrote:
A substantive, thorough, sophisticated literature review is a precondition for doing substantive, thorough, sophisticated research. “Good” research is good because it advances our collective understanding. To advance our collective understanding, a researcher or scholar needs to understand what has been done before, the strengths and weaknesses of existing studies, and what they might mean. A researcher cannot perform significant research without first understanding the literature in the field. (p. 3)

The activities in this section assist you in developing your skills in critiquing research, discussing issues in your area, identifying a research problem, and writing a literature review.

Required Reading:
Please refer to each Activity for required readings within Activity Resources.

Assignment 3 Annotated Bibliography
As you know from previous courses, an annotated bibliography describes and evaluates literature on a topic in a collection of succinct, one-paragraph entries. There are two important points to know about an annotated bibliography.
1. Bibliography entries must be based on a critical examination of studies. Just because an article appears in a peer-reviewed journal does not mean it is without flaws (see Activity 2). An annotated bibliography entry that does not evaluate the merits of the research and its relevance to your purposes is of little value to you.
2. Researchers often refer to their annotated bibliography when writing literature reviews. If you do your annotated bibliography with care and skill, it will be invaluable, as you can use it to create your literature review, saving much time and effort. The other assignments in this section are premised upon this idea.
If you have kept the same topic area throughout all of your BTM courses, you have used approximately 40 different articles to complete previous assignments, including previous annotated bibliography assignments. If you have changed your topic area, the number of sources on your current topic area would, of course, be fewer than 40. Your dissertation proposal will have a literature review of 40-80 pages and discuss many articles on your topic area (likely more than 100).

Activity Resources
• Annotated Bibliography. University of Canberra: Academic Skills Program
• How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography. Cornell University Library
• Annotated Bibliographies. Purdue Online Writing Lab
Main Task: Compile an Annotated Bibliography
This assignment requires you to compile an Annotated Bibliography of 40 entries (twice as many is ideal!), 85% of which must be from the past five years. Each annotated entry must concisely summarize key aspects of a study—participants, purpose, research design and methods, data analysis, key findings—and include a thoughtful evaluation of the significance of the study’s findings and conclusions as they relate to your topic. In order to write quality entries, you must understand each study—what the researchers did, why they did it, and what they found and concluded. Be sure you paraphrase all content, following Northcentral Academic Integrity guidelines to insure that your work is your own. Here is a familiar example:


(Just so you know how much literature to read, but not necessarily include, in your Proposal Literature Review: You will need to exhaust the literature, which means you must keep reviewing articles until you reach saturation and are no longer learning anything new.)

All of the entries should be relevant to your goal of developing a research problem that contributes to theory in a topic area and to designing a study that addresses the problem. Organize the entries thematically into roughly the following categories:
• Seminal Articles
• Theory
• Issues and Debates
• Key Findings
• Designs
You will probably want to add categories specific to your topic area, and you may modify the recommended categories to organize the entries in a way that makes most sense. Be sure to include works that provide alternate or opposing perspectives on the proposed topic area in order to demonstrate unbiased research. Focus particularly on works that address main ideas in the field, describe areas of controversy, and indicate areas of incomplete knowledge and relate to your envisioned study’s problem, purpose, and research questions. It may be helpful to create a spreadsheet of the studies in your topic area, which includes, among other things, the constructs studied, how the constructs were operationalized, and the findings. Sometimes having the summary information all viewable at one time helps identify a problem. Include historical and germinal works as well as current works.

Your goal in this assignment is to identify all of the peer-reviewed papers you will need to do subsequent assignments in this course and all or almost all you need to write your Concept Paper in your first DIS course (you will check for new articles on your topic before finalizing your Concept Paper.)

The Northcentral Library Resources on the Research Process gives excellence guidance on conducting library research for a literature review.

Hint: Don’t neglect dissertations and theses. They often have excellent reference lists.

This bibliography will become the Appendix to your Concept Paper. It will support your problem statement and literature review. It will provide you with models and ideas for the design of your study. Do not rush this assignment. Ensure that entries you have used previously are still relevant and are written to standard.

Important Suggestion: Read through the remaining activities in this course and take notes toward completing them as you are reviewing articles and compiling your Bibliography. If you do this assignment well, the rest of the assignments in this section will almost write themselves!

You instructor may ask you to add, delete, or rewrite entries and resubmit this assignment. If you have questions about the appropriateness of an article, check with your instructor. If you are unsure of how to write an entry, submit a single entry for review before doing the assignment.). Submit a paper comprised of at least 40 annotated bibliography entries.
Length: 150-250 words per entry

Your annotated bibliography should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts that are presented in the course and provide new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards.

Submit your document in the Course Work area below the Activity screen.

Learning Outcomes: 4, 5, 6
Assignment Outcomes
Critique peer-reviewed, published research studies
Evaluate published articles to identify issues in a topic area.
Create an annotated bibliography.
Course Work



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