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AMERICAN HARDCORE, 1978 – 1990

Exhibition running 11 April – 4 May 2013

Opening Reception Wednesday 10th April 6 – 9pm
The Vinyl Factory Chelsea
91 Walton Street
London SW3 2HP
The Gallery is open Monday – Saturday, 10 – 6pm
+44 (0) 207 589 0588

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The Mott Collection and The Vinyl Factory announce a new exhibition and publication:

AMERICAN HARDCORE, 1978 – 1990
Running 11 April – 4 May 2013

The exhibition brings together 50 American Hardcore single sleeves spanning the apex of the genre from the late 70’s up to the 90’s. The collection represents the subtle shifts and changes, and finally the overall unification of what began as a disparate musical style that developed into a rigid set of fixed codes, sounds, and political beliefs.

From the raw stripped down sounds of Black Flag to the spasmodic reggae influenced Bad Brains, Hardcore emerged as a puritanical suburban rely to the decadence of big city Punk Rock outfits such as the Ramones or the New York Dolls. Popping up in small West Coast communities like Hermosa Beach, Oxnard and San Pedro and simultaneously in East Coast cities such as Washington DC and Boston the Hardcore movement was obsessively local, yet at the same time extremely far reaching due to the punishing tour schedules bands would put themselves through sometimes touring non-stop for years. This had the effect of birthing small Hardcore scenes nationwide each with their own distinct flavours.

The exhibition also features a limited edition silk screen print featuring the ‘AMERICAN HARDCORE’ catalogue cover artwork.

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AMERICAN HARDCORE, 1978 – 1990

The catalogue, printed in an edition of 300 copies, documents 50 US Hardcore Punk singles and features an extended Q&A with author and UK Punk collector Toby Mott and US Punk collector and curator Bryan Ray Turcotte. Also included are a 7” vinyl pressing of a Black Flag interview from 1981 and an oversized foldout print.The catalogue is printed and designed by Ditto Press.

Opening Reception Wednesday 10th April 6 – 9pm
Exhibition runs 11 April – 4 May 2013

The Vinyl Factory Chelsea
91 Walton Street
London SW3 2HP

The Gallery is open Monday – Saturday, 10 – 6pm
+44 (0) 207 589 0588

www.vfeditions.com/product/view/98

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The 12 Paradoxes Of Graphic Design

By Dorothy Tan,

19 Mar 2013

Based on a lecture by graphic designer Adrian Shaughnessy, Stockholm-based designer Tobias Bergdahl has created minimalist visuals for the “12 Paradoxes of Graphic Design” that Shaughnessy spoke of.

Each paradox consists of an impossible shape—like the Möbius strip—accompanied by a simple statement about the practice of graphic design.

These illuminating and insightful messages are great advice for young graphic designers by urging them not to harbor misleading assumptions about important subjects like clients, money and ideas.

Scroll down to view all 12 paradoxes that may give you a new perspective of graphic design.

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[From: abduzeed.com]

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Harlem Shake: could it kill sampling?

An unexpected viral dance craze shot Baauer’s Harlem Shake to the top of the Billboard charts. Almost immediately, legal letters began to arrive. So, can cut-and-paste culture continue to flourish on the internet?

Sampled from:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/mar/13/harlem-shake-internet-killing-sampling?CMP=twt_gu

by Dorian Lynskey

The Guardian, Wednesday 13 March 2013 17.03 GMT

Baauer

Brooklyn-based producer Baauer could not have anticipated the success of Harlem Shake. Photograph: Jen Maler/CAMERA PRESS/Jen Maler

It didn’t take long for Baauer, AKA Brooklyn producer Harry Bauer Rodrigues, to realise the downside of freak success. Almost as soon as his bass-heavy minimalist dance track Harlem Shake was propelled to the top of the Billboard charts last month by a viral dance craze and a change in chart rules that took into account YouTube views he wascontacted by representatives for retired reggaeton artist Hector Delgado and Philadelphia MC Jayson Musson. Without realising it, both men were collaborators on a hit. It was Delgado who sang “Con los terroristas” on his 2006 single Maldades, and Musson who rapped “Do the Harlem Shake!” on Miller Time, a 2001 track by his group Plastic Little. Both vocal hooks were fundamental to the success of Baauer’s record but neither performer had been approached or paid.

On the surface, Baauer’s failure to license the samples would appear to stem from some combination of naivety, laziness and stupidity, but nothing about Harlem Shake is straightforward. At the beginning of February, this year-old underground club track suddenly became a worldwide phenomenon thanks to tens of thousands of people (including Egyptian protesters, Manchester City players, Stephen Colbert and The Simpsons) filming themselves dancing like idiots to a 30-second excerpt. By 20 February it was No 1 off the back of 103m YouTube views in a single week.

Link to video: Manchester City perform their version of the Harlem Shake

Had Baauer known a year ago that this would happen, he would doubtless have been more careful, but nobody saw it coming. The record got away from him, upending his assumptions and making him yet another name in the long and controversial history of sampling: a bewildering grey area shaped by legal confusion, financial necessity, technological advances, arguments over artistic freedom, and old-fashioned seat-of-the-pants chutzpah.

Hip-hop began in the early 1970s as a DJ-driven artform, with MCs initially employed as energetic hypemen. So when it eventually graduated from the club to the recording studio, the principle of rapping over other people’s records was a given, and the only obstacle was technological. The primitive nature of early samplers forced producers to use stiff programmed drums (think of any early Run-DMC or Beastie Boys single), rather than fluid breakbeats. But the release of samplers such as the E-mu SP-1200 and the Akai MPC60 in the late 80s revolutionised the form, enabling producers to ransack their record collections for ideas. Albums such as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique worked dozens of samples into collages of psychedelic complexity. Public Enemy claimed that they had used so many sources in their 1989 hit Fight the Power that even they couldn’t identify them all afterwards.

Sometimes the original artists were paid and credited, but usually not. This wasn’t legal, it was just the way things were done. In retrospect, it seems startlingly blatant. Did MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice really not think to clear the huge and obvious samples (from Rick James and Queen respectively) that underpinned their breakthrough hits? No, because hardly anybody did. It was a free-for-all.

Gilbert O'Sullivan

Use of a song by Gilbert O’Sullivan caused problems for rapper Biz Markie. Photograph: Terry O’Neill/Getty Images

The Wild West era waned with Hammer and Vanilla Ice’s expensive retroactive settlements and ended decisively in 1991 when a federal court found rapper Biz Markie and his record label guilty of copyright infringement against singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan“Thou shalt not steal has been an admonition followed since the dawn of civilisation,”wrote Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy. “Unfortunately, in the modern world of business this admonition is not always followed.” When Markie was ordered to pay damages and remove the offending track from his album, the music industry panicked and insisted that artists declare all their samples in advance, thus making De La Soul-style collages prohibitively expensive and dramatically affecting the sound of hip-hop. These days, big stars rarely cross the line deliberately. Kanye West and Jay-Z’s recent scuffle with soul singer Syl Johnson arose from a paperwork error at their record label. Generally, the system works: in 2010 Johnson boasted that his house had effectively been paid for by the Wu-Tang Clan.

The Biz Markie case changed the practice of sampling but without establishing a watertight precedent or inspiring any clarifying legislation. Subsequent cases have only complicated the issue.

The problem for artists is that the criteria are nebulous and the judgments subjective. In the US, the “fair use” doctrine grants exemptions from copyright law in certain circumstances, for example if the new work is considered “transformative” rather than merely “derivative”, and doesn’t affect the value of the original work. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Florida rap group 2 Live Crew in a1994 case because their unlicensed copying of Roy Orbison’s Oh, Pretty Woman was deemed a parody and therefore permissible under fair use. But artists who sample cannot be sure what qualifies as fair use until a case goes to court, so in practice it becomes a question of weighing risks against rewards.

Even apparently legitimate samples can be contentious. The Beastie Boys licensed the recording of jazz flautist James Newton‘s 1978 track Choir for use on 1992’s Pass the Mic but not the publishing rights, so a court had to decide in 2004 whether the six-second sample (“three notes separated by a half-step over a background C note” in the court’s words) counted as a significant part of Newton’s composition. The judge decided it did not.

The Verve, famously, were not so lucky when they lifted a loop onBittersweet Symphony from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra’s coverversion of The Last Time by the Rolling Stones.

They did, in fact, license the sample but ABKCO, which owned the rights to the record, claimed the Verve had used “too much” of it and won, in an out-of-court settlement, 100% of the publishing as well as a songwriting credit for Jagger/Richards, even though the sampled section owes nothing to the Stones’ own recording. The extremity of the settlement called into question the very nature of authorship.

Kraftwerk

A sample of Kraftwerk has been the subject of a lengthy wrangle in the German courts. Photograph: EMI

Sampling lawsuits require judges to make aesthetic calls that don’t always make sense. In a longrunning wrangle between Kraftwerk and two German hip-hop producers over a two-second drum loop from 1977’s Metal on Metal, Germany’s supreme court decreed that an unlicensed sample was only permissible if the same effect could not be achieved without sampling. After several expert witnesses banged pieces of metal together and fed the sounds through sampling technology available at the time the hip-hop track was made, the court decided that it was indeed possible and ruled in Kraftwerk’s favour.

But the court misunderstood the philosophy behind sampling. Producers such as DJ Shadow use samples precisely because they want to play with the aura of the original text. As sampling pioneer Steinski told the Guardian five years ago, “You want the thing; you don’t want the almost-thing”. By the German court’s criteria, Warhol should have painted his own pictures of Marilyn Monroe.

This would be a ruinous and artistically tone-deaf legal precedent.

So the law is a mess but the law isn’t all that counts. Most of the time the key question is what you can get away with, and it’s often a great deal. When bedroom producers began disseminating free online “mash-ups” of famous records a decade ago, the record industry initially responded with a flurry of cease-and-desist letters, but it soon realised that there was nothing to be gained by playing corporate Goliath to legions of plucky Davids. Danger Mouse’s 2004 release The Grey Album, a flagrantly illegal mash-up of Jay-Z and the Beatles, led not to a court case but a prolific, Grammy-winning career producing the likes of the Black Keys, Beck and Gorillaz.

Even more provocatively, US DJ Girl Talk, who describes himself as “taking a Warhol approach”, has released five albums, either free or on a pay-what-you-want basis, based on recontextualising chunks of instantly recognisable hit singles. Copyright reformers are eager for an artist or label to take the bait and sue Girl Talk, hoping that the case would clarify “fair use” in their favour, but the industry realises that is wiser to leave the arty outlaws alone while continuing to make money from licensing samples to mainstream artists.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean came under threat after using a sample of the Eagles on his 2011 mixtape ­Nostalgia, Ultra. Photograph: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

The same goes for online “mixtapes”: albums, often stuffed with unlicensed samples, that are given away online to whet appetites for official releases. R&B star Frank Ocean’s 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra used huge slabs of music from artists including Coldplay and MGMT but only his sample-cum-cover of the Eagles’ Hotel California inspired a threat of legal action. Frank Ocean’s defence was typical of the mixtape-and-mash-up generation: “Why sue the new guy? I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything, I’m paying homage.” Cooler heads seem to have prevailed and the threat has gone no further. Nobody wants to be painted as a multimillionaire killjoy, especially when there’s no money to be made even if they won.

For now, the not-making-a-dime defence seems to be keeping potential litigants at bay, enabling a return to the unshackled creativity of the late 80s, but it is a precarious freedom. A single lawsuit, and a ruling more in line with Judge Duffy’s “thou shalt not steal” views than those of the copyright reformers, could bring the shutters clanging down.

For producers who choose to sell their copyright-flouting work, the situation is even hazier because their only defence is obscurity. Most independent labels lack the staff to vet and clear samples, and most of their artists lack the funds, so some choose to release the records anyway and, perversely, hope they don’t become attention-grabbing hits. Sometimes producers don’t even know what they’re meant to be clearing. The labyrinthine nature of the internet makes it easy for someone to come across samples via a trail of links without thinking to note their origin. Baauer’s claim that he can’t remember where he came across Hector Delgado’s vocal could be disingenuous but it’s at least possible.

It was success that got him into trouble. When Harlem Shake was first released on an underground EP in May last year, the samples predictably went unnoticed. Only when it took off last month did Delgado and Musson become aware of the record, and by then there was clearly big money involved. Understandably they both want their cut, although, interestingly they disagree on the ethics of illegal sampling. Musson responded equably, “I’m cool with it. That’s how artists do,” while Delgado complained: “It’s almost like they came on my land and built a house.”

Even if nothing is certain in the field of sampling law, the lesson of Baauer’s case is clear: thou can indeed steal as long as the people you’re stealing from don’t smell a payday. The same sample of Delgado’s voice that appears on Harlem Shake had been used three years ago in a remix by DJ duo Philadelphyinz. They haven’t heard from Delgado’s representative yet, but their remix wasn’t a hit.

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Strategies for Writing a Conclusion

(from: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html)

Conclusions are often the most difficult part of a disseatation to write, and many writers feel that they have nothing left to say after having written the disseration. A writer needs to keep in mind that the conclusion is often what a reader remembers best. Your conclusion should be the best part of your paper.


A conclusion should

  • · stress the importance of the thesis statement/lead question
  • · give the disseration a sense of completeness, and
  • · leave a final impression on the reader.

Suggestions

  • · Answer the question “So What?”

Show your readers why this research was important. Show them that your dissertation was meaningful and useful.

  • · Synthesise, don’t summarise
    • Don’t simply repeat things that were in your dissertation  They have read it. Show them how the points you made and the support and examples you used were not random, but fit together.
  • · Redirect your readers
    • Give your reader something to think about, perhaps a way to use your paper in the “real” world. If your introduction went from general to specific, make your conclusion go from specific to general. Think globally.
  • · Create a new meaning
    • o You don’t have to give new information to create a new meaning. By demonstrating how your ideas work together, you can create a new picture. Often the sum of the dissertation is worth more than its parts.

Strategies

  • · Echoing the introduction: Echoing your introduction can be a good strategy if it is meant to bring the reader full-circle. If you begin by describing a scenario, you can end with the same scenario as proof that your dissertation was helpful in creating a new understanding.

Example

Introduction

From the parking lot, I could see the towers of the castle of the Magic Kingdom standing stately against the blue sky. To the right, the tall peak of The Matterhorn rose even higher. From the left, I could hear the jungle sounds of Adventureland. As I entered the gate, Main Street stretched before me with its quaint shops evoking an old-fashioned small town so charming it could never have existed. I was entranced. Disneyland may have been built for children, but it brings out the child in adults.

Conclusion

I thought I would spend a few hours at Disneyland, but here I was at 1:00 A.M., closing time, leaving the front gates with the now dark towers of the Magic Kingdom behind me. I could see tired children, toddling along and struggling to keep their eyes open as best they could. Others slept in their parents’ arms as we waited for the parking lot tram that would take us to our cars. My forty-year-old feet ached, and I felt a bit sad to think that in a couple of days I would be leaving California, my vacation over, to go back to my desk. But then I smiled to think that for at least a day I felt ten years old again.


  • · Challenging the reader: By issuing a challenge to your readers, you are helping them to redirect the information in the dissertation, and they may apply it to their own lives.

Example

Though serving on a jury is not only a civic responsibility but also an interesting experience, many people still view jury duty as a chore that interrupts their jobs and the routine of their daily lives. However, juries are part of America’s attempt to be a free and just society. Thus, jury duty challenges us to be interested and responsible citizens.


  • · Looking to the future: Looking to the future can emphasise the importance of your dissertation or redirect the readers’ thought process. It may help them apply the new information to their lives or see things more globally.

Example

Without well-qualified teachers, schools are little more than buildings and equipment. If higher-paying careers continue to attract the best and the brightest students, there will not only be a shortage of teachers, but the teachers available may not have the best qualifications. Our youth will suffer. And when youth suffers, the future suffers.


  • · Posing questions: Posing questions, either to your readers or in general, may help your readers gain a new perspective on the topic, which they may not have held before reading your conclusion. It may also bring your main ideas together to create a new meaning.

Example

Campaign advertisements should help us understand the candidate’s qualifications and positions on the issues. Instead, most tell us what a boob or knave the opposing candidate is, or they present general images of the candidate as a family person or God-fearing American. Do such advertisements contribute to creating an informed electorate or a people who choose political leaders the same way they choose soft drinks and soap?

All the best

Mark

 

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READING AND REMEMBERING

From: http://www.canberra.edu.au/studyskills/learning/reading

Summary of this page

The problem
How to read academic texts
A word on speed reading
How to remember what you’ve read

How do you manage to get through your reading, and retain what you have read?

Always remember:


academic material is not meant to be read.
It is meant to be ransacked and pillaged for essential content.

Be selective.
Set a realistic time frame for any reading task.

Never read without specific questions you want the text to answer.
Never start reading at page 1 of the text, but look for the summary, conclusion, subheadings, etc.
Read only as much as you need to get the information you are after.
Always keep in mind what you need, what is relevant to the question you are asking the text.
How do you remember what you have read?

One of the basic principles of memory is that the quality of memory is related to the quality of your interaction with what you are trying to remember. If you have organised, dissected, questioned, reviewed and assessed the material you are reading, it will sit more firmly in your memory.

Consider this: why is it so easy to remember the contents of an article about something you are really interested in? It is because you get involved personally in the events and images the text portrays. You can harness some of the same memory potential in academic reading by adopting a particular kind of involved ‘active reading’.

Learn to use your own cognitive strengths—visual, oral-aural, systematic, etc.—to create memorability in your reading. Imagine, visualise, recite, act out your academic material, get it out of the dry text-on-page (or screen) context and put some real life into it.

A final hint—don’t take notes whilst you are reading. Instead, try dividing your reading into shortish sections, closing the book when you have read a section, and writing a summary from memory. The things you recall are strengthened in memory by the act of recall, and the correction of things you leave out or get wrong helps fix them in memory as well.

There is another bonus: you will find that by reading in anticipation of writing a summary, your reading improves by becoming more analytical and conscious of ‘key points’. Try it and see.

The Academic Skills Centre runs workshops during semester which will help you develop your reading and memory techniques.

THE PROBLEM

What is your first reaction when you look at the reading lists for your subjects? Is it something like: ‘How on earth am I going to get through all that?’

When you add up the pages of books, chapters, articles, etc., it comes to a raw total which would be difficult to just get through, let alone remember, organise, and synthesise.

And of course, there are always problems such as material being unavailable—the article the lecturer says is vital for everyone to read, but there is only one copy of the publication in the library, and it has gone missing…

SO—how do you manage to get through your reading, and retain what you have read?

HOW TO READ ACADEMIC TEXTS
A first principle you might consider is:

Academic material is not meant to be read.
It is meant to be ransacked and pillaged for essential content.

This means that you should never just sit down to read academic works as if they were novels or Reader’s Digest articles. Academic study is not suited to such an approach, and the chances are you could spend hours reading and then not have a clue what you have been reading about (does that sound familiar?). Instead, think about the following:

Don’t feel that you must read everything on the reading list.
Use the reading list as a guideline—material on the list will often cover much the same ground, a list may sometimes have alternative items to cover different interests or library limitations, and some of the items on the list will be ‘optional’ to the extent that you can pass the subject without reading them.
Be selective.
Check through the items on your reading list.
Which are basic texts, and which are more detailed? (Will you need basic information or more specific information for your assignment?)
Which are the most accessible to you? (Texts which are crystal clear to one person may be incomprehensible to another, and vice versa—this is not a matter of ‘intelligence’, but of a preference for a particular presentation and style)
Which are reasonably available? (It is no good pinning your hopes on a book if there is one copy in the library and 300 students wanting it.)
Set a realistic time frame for any reading task.
Do not read any longer than you can concentrate. It doesn’t matter if your attention span is short—just set your tasks accordingly.
Never read without specific questions you want the text to answer.
If you want your reading to stay in your memory, you must approach your text with a list of questions about the particular information you are after, and search the text for the answers to those questions.
Don’t just read with the hope that an answer will appear.
Never start reading at page 1 of the text.
If there is a summary, a conclusion, a set of sub-headings, or an abstract, read that first, because it will give you a map of what the text contains. You can then deal with the text structurally, looking for particular points, not just reading ‘blind’ and so easily getting lost.
Read only as much as you need to get the information you are after.
For example, if a piece of information you need is in the abstract of an article, why read the whole article unless you have time to spare?
If a point is clear from reading a summary, is there any benefit in reading through the complete text of a chapter?
If you are interested in the overall findings of a study, do you really need to read the methodology and results sections?
Always keep in mind what you need, what is relevant to the question you are asking the text.
There are many ‘tricks of the trade’ you will either learn or discover for yourself.
For example, rather than reading all of a series of articles on a topic, consider whether the literature review in the last article of the series will give you enough to go on with. You can be infinitely creative with your time- and labour-saving strategies. Look for new ways, and talk with other students about how they manage.
Don’t panic if you cannot get hold of a particular text.
Information may be found in various places, and Canberra is better-supplied with libraries than most other places in the country. Think about looking further afield and being creative in your information searches.
A WORD ON ‘SPEED READING’
From time to time outside companies advertise ‘speed reading’ courses for university students. Some of them are quite expensive, and the level of satisfaction among students is not very high. Speed reading has its uses, but it is certainly not the answer to all the reading needs of university students. Getting through text is only a small part of the reading/remembering task. It doesn’t really matter how much stuff you get through—if it doesn’t get into your understanding, it is useless.

REMEMBERING WHAT YOU’VE READ
If you follow the points above, you will find that you take in a lot more than you would if you just dived into the text. One of the basic principles of memory is that the quality of memory is related to the quality of your interaction with what you are trying to remember. Obviously, if you have organised, dissected, questioned, reviewed and assessed the material you are reading, it will sit more firmly in your memory, and be more accessible.

There are many ‘memory systems’ available, some current and commercially promoted, some of great antiquity (the ancient Romans, for example, had some interesting systems). If you want to have a look at some of these, fine—they work for some people. However, if you are looking at something which is going to cost you hard-earned cash, think carefully! There are a lot of folk around after an easy dollar …..

You might like to consider this: why is it so easy to remember the contents of an article about something you are really interested in, or the even more complex contents of a good novel? The answers might have something to do with interest, not having to read them, etc., but it also has a great deal to do with the sort of interaction the reader has with such material. For example, when you read a novel or story you are not just dealing with text—you are getting involved personally in the events and images the text portrays. You feel sad or happy or outraged at what happens, and you probably see the events and scenes described as clearly as if you were seeing it all on film.

The link between recreational reading and a heavy academic text may not be obvious. You may feel like crying over a book on economics or neurophysiology, but the reasons will be very different to those with a good novel! However, you can harness some of the same memory potential in academic reading by adopting a particular kind of ‘active reading’.

For example, try envisaging yourself as a professional in the field you are studying, actually using the stuff you are reading to give advice or solve problems. Getting involved with the knowledge you are trying to absorb, making it personal, greatly enhances its memorability (some time ago we had a group of law students enacting

Rumpole or The Practice scenarios with the cases they had to study, and apart from being highly amusing, it made the material much easier to come to grips with).

Learn to use your own cognitive strengths—visual, oral-aural, systematic, etc.—to create memorability in your reading. Imagine, visualise, recite, act out your academic material, get it out of the dry text-on-page (or screen) context and put some real life into it. Even just applying your growing knowledge to the day’s news headlines can be enormously helpful, and so can telling people about the understanding you are developing about issues that come up in conversation.

Importantly, don’t try to memorise everything! You don’t have to be a parrot or a recording machine. Make sure you understand the main points of what you are reading.

The Academic Skills Centre runs workshops during semester which will help you develop your reading and memory techniques, and we can help you on a one-to-one basis by appointment. We can cover much more than this brief article contains, so get in touch with the ASP!

A final hint—when you are reading, particularly for revision, think about not taking notes.

It is easy to fall into a note-taking mode that is almost mechanical transcription, and little of what you are writing gets into memory. Instead, try dividing your reading into shortish sections, closing the book when you have read a section, and writing a summary from memory. The things you recall are strengthened in memory by the act of recall, and the correction of things you leave out or get wrong helps fix them in memory as well.

There is another bonus: you will find that by reading in anticipation of writing a summary, your reading improves by becoming more analytical and conscious of ‘key points’. Try it and see.

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The Broader Survey

 Reviewing the literature/practices

Academic dissertations typically include some kind of ‘literature review’. It is probably more useful for students to think of this, as examiners usually do, as a ‘critical review of the literature’, for reasons which will be made clear shortly. The literature review is normally an early section in the dissertation.

 The broader survey

Students are normally expected to begin working on a general survey of the related research literature at the earliest possible stage of their research. This in itself is not what is normally meant in formal references to the ‘review of the literature’, but is rather a preparatory stage. This survey stage ranges far wider in scope and quantity than the final review, typically including more general works. Your survey (which exists in writing only in your notes) should help you in several ways, such as:

to decide on the issues/topic you will choose for your research;

to become aware of appropriate research methodologies;

to see how research on your specific topic fits into a broader framework;

to help you not to ‘reinvent the wheel’;

to help you to avoid any well-known theoretical and methodological pitfalls;

to prepare you for approaching the critical review.

 The ‘critical’ review

Clearly, if you are new to research in the field you are not in a position to ‘criticise’ the work of experienced researchers on the basis of your own knowledge of the topic or of research methodology. Where you are reporting on well-known research studies closely related to your topic, however, some critical comments may well be available from other established researchers (often in textbooks on the topic). These criticisms of methodology, conclusions and so on can and should be reported in your review (together with any published reactions to these criticisms.).

However, the use of the term critical is not usually meant to suggest that you should focus on criticising the work of established researchers. It is primarily meant to indicate that:

the review should not be merely a descriptive list of a number of research projects related to the topic;

you are capable of thinking critically and with insight about the issues raised by previous research.

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literature-review1

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What is a literature review for?

The review can serve many functions, some of which are as follows:

to indicate what researchers in the field already know about the topic;

to indicate what those in the field do not yet know about the topic – the ‘gaps’;

to indicate major questions in the topic area;

to provide background information for the non-specialist reader seeking to gain an overview of the field;

to ensure that new research (including yours) avoids the errors of some earlier research;

to demonstrate your grasp of the topic.

What should I include in a literature review?

In the formal review of the literature you should refer only to research projects, which are interrelated to your own topic. The formal review is not just a record of ‘what I have read’. If your problem is how to choose what to leave out, one way might be to focus on the most recent papers. You should normally aim to include key studies, which are widely cited by others in the field, however old they may be. Where there are several similar studies with similar findings, you should review a representative study, which was well designed.

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