Of Literature Reviews and the Benefits They Reap

At this writing I am working through a large body of literature for my dissertation. It is a laborious process, yet intriguing as well. The sources are both primary and secondary in nature. A few rely on the hard science of statistical data based on empirical research. Others rely on ethnographic data, more in keeping with sociological research, as is the case for my dissertation. Still others are scholarly histories, providing background information of the religious development of children. Although several of the books investigate the spirituality of children primarily within a western worldview, there are a few which shed light on the broader international scope of children’s spirituality. There is much that we in the western world can learn from our neighbors around the world.

I am most impressed by specific researchers who have availed themselves of rigorous peer scholarly review. I am puzzled by those who do not seem to have upheld that standard, at least not to the same degree. It seems to me that the conclusions of the latter, however appealing they might be for some who agree, raise critical questions of bias.

Scholarly writing requires a disciplined balance of critical judgement and respectful concern for colleagues. Scholars are human, too. So, as I embark on the writing of my literature review I shall endeavor to be mindful of that fact. 

I foresee several benefits to this specific literature review and the application of its results in the primary research phase.

  1. I will have a broader grasp of the issues pertaining to children’s spirituality from a multidisciplinary perspective, not least human development, philosophy, history, culture as it pertains to the contextual ecology of children (e.g. religion, family, school, neighborhood, marketplace, etc).
  2. I will be more alert to further necessary areas of study, some of which are already highlighted in current publications, others which may yet occur to me from my perspective of practical theology.
  3. I will identify potential areas of application for the world of children’s and family ministry which currently have only been scantly explored. For example, I think that there is a great opportunity for a scholarly peer reviewed journal in the field of children’s and family ministry. Obviously it’s readership would not be as extensive as that of other very fine magazines relating to children’s ministry, but I believe that with the continuing increase in academic research on children’s ministry in general, and children’s spirituality in particular, there definitely is potential. It would require a strong university or seminary to pull it off, most likely.

So there you have it. Much is afoot in my world. Off I go to wrestle with the fascinating literary efforts of my peers.

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