The 4 S’s of Goal Setting for your Lit Review

I feel like I should explain a little about goal setting for this next week.

Ideally, goal setting should go like this:

goal setting expected-01

We set a goal at some point in time, then we achieve that goal at some point in the future.

Perfect, right?

In a perfect world, this would be great. But goal setting never works out exactly like that. The problem is that actually our goal setting pans out like this:

goal setting normal-01

I'm sure you're familiar with this, I know I am. The problem is that we set a goal, we don't define it properly, we don't monitor it and we have no idea whether we have achieved it or not. At some point in the future, we may or may not remember that we had set a goal or not. It may or may not be too late.

So, I want to tell you about the 4 S's of literature review goal setting. This is not an exhaustive list of things to think about by any means. However, it is the most important list, based on feedback I've had from other students.

The 4 S's - Your literature Review Goals should be:


They should be tiny! It's really ok to make big goals at the beginning. In fact, I encourage it. However, you mustn't stop there. Take your big goals and break them down into bite-size pieces. How small? Well, that really depends on you. The biggest I recommend is one goal per day. However, if you can, I would divide your big goals for the next few weeks up further to give you about 3 small goals per day. This makes them manageable, achievable and gives you the opportunity to monitor your progress.


I've touched on this already. Your goals must be small but they must add up to something bigger. Each goal that you have must lead on from the last thing you achieved and provide the building blocks for you to begin your next goal.


Again this is quite related to the previous point. Your goals must be sequential, however, they must also be systematic. I like to think of being systematic as a zoomed out version of being sequential. Being systematic means planning the overall literature review well and fitting in your goals exactly with that plan. There we are again, back to that word plan. If you plan your goals you will be much more likely to succeed.


The final S is specificity. You have to be specific to know exactly what it is you want to achieve and to know whether or not you have achieved it. Ask yourself this, "How will I know when I've achieved my goal". If you have to think for more than 3 seconds then your goal is not specific enough. If you can make your goal specific enough to be able to measure it (read xx papers, write xx words etc) then so much the better.


Cheeky bonus S's

These aren't essential but they may very well take your goal setting to the next level


Share your goals with others (i.e. in the forum) and get instant accountability. People will be expecting you to achieve your goals and will be let down if you don't. This is very motivating :)


Do you have anything to lose with your goals? Are you going to fail or be embarassed? Are you going to lose money? If so, great - this is proven to be a very powerful motivator for achieving your goals. Remind yourself what is at stake when you feel yourself slipping. If there is nothing at stake maybe you can engineer your own stakes. Tell a trusted friend your goal and tell them what you propose to do if you don't reach it. Your forfeit could be to pay money or to do something (eg. clean your friends house for a month).


In the end, all of our goal setting should look like this:

goal setting guaranteed-01


So have a go at setting some goals for this week. Post them in the forum and let me know how you found the process.

Your 4 Week Project Plan

Hey again everyone. Below is a project plan I have used for private coaching students in the past. It's certainly not the only way to do things but it works very well. If you lack a better alternative then use this - there is an explanation below.

4 Week literature Review project plan


Ok, so this plan might seem a little unusual at first glance. However, we are trying to do a literature review in 4 weeks and if we used normal methods it probably wouldn't happen.

There are two unusual components of this plan. The first is that writing is confined until the very last week. The second is that planning the literature review begins on the very first day and continues until we begin writing.

So the whole concept is this: Create an early, iterative plan.

This means that you plan what you want to say and then you read literature to check if you plan is ok, if it isn't you modify it with respect to what you have read in the literature. This has several main benefits:

Planning early means you have more time to work on the details. This means that ultimately, your plan will contain detail down to the paragraph level. Each paragraph that you will end up writing will have been planned out beforehand - believe me when I say, this makes writing a whole lot easier.

Planning early makes it easier to eliminate bias. At the start, I am encouraging you to make a plan when you have little or no information about your subject. This is obviously ridiculous and that is the point. It means that you will go and start searching the literature to fill in your plan in a more focused way. However, it also means that you are acutely aware that your plan is wrong at the beginning. You feel that you should alter your plan and this is a very good feeling to have. Did you know that one of the main complaints supervisors have about their students literature reviews is that they are biased by the students own point of view? It often happens because, at the start of the literature review, we develop ideas and then unknowingly selectively read literature that helps to back them up. By being aware that our plan lacks important information at the very start, we run less of a risk of falling into that trap.

Because planning is so extensive, writing takes up much less time. There is no need to think about what you want to write, because everything is laid out in your plan. When you write, you are simply translating the information you have generated into a fluent text.


Important Questionnaire

Hey everybody. Please fill out this questionnaire. It serves two purposes:

1. To help me understand your situation so that I can give better training.

2. To help you articulate and frame your own situation to help you form more concrete goals and motivate yourself.

Welcome to 4 Week Literature Review

Hey everyone.

Welcome to the site! It's pretty minimalistic right now and I quite like it. There are no distractions.

So let me show you around. You can see there is a navigation bar at the top. These link to the forum, the chat room and the information for the Office Hours.

The payment button is on the right-hand side and is handled through paypal. As you can see, you have access to everything without paying - this is because we're a small group and I trust you guys :) Please pay as soon as you can this week.

The text you are reading now is the news feed. Here I'll post relevant news and updates. You can comment on these in the comments section or talk about them in the forum.

As you can see, the site is not password protected. This isn't a problem for me just now as not many people know it exists. However, it means you should not post confidential information on the site. Remove sensitive information from any posts and if it is essential to understanding your problem then you can write anything to me in an email with complete confidence.

So, I'm excited about this, here we go!