Literature Reviews & Concept Mapping
February 3, 2020

REFLECTING ON:  literature reviews & concept mapping in my degree project

After settling on a “How Might We…” question...

How might we use way-finding systems to help new international students navigate campus, interact with local students, and improve their English-speaking skills?

I have moved into the secondary research phase in order to get a better grasp of the topics. My investigation involves three distinct topics—international students in America, English learning or language neutrality, and way-finding design—which makes the process of organizing new ideas very nonlinear. Luckily, concept mapping is the perfect tool for keeping track of the subcategories of each concept and visualizing the way that these categories are interconnected and interdependent.

I approached the secondary research process by focusing solely on the literature reviews at the beginning and waiting to draw connections between them until I had a more complete grasp. I was surprised to find sources that contradicted my preconceptions of these topics, as well as contradicting each other at times. One shocking source was an article which called out the vast majority of research on international students for approaching the experience from the perspective of host-national universities and their goals for host-national students as opposed to the actual goals of the international students themselves. I realized that this article was calling out my assumptions as well, since I have approached this topic from the privileged perspective that all international students choose to study abroad primarily to gain diverse experiences. However, many students have more dire concerns such as social mobility and future job security.

With a more well-rounded understanding of these subjects, I began to break this information down into the main ideas and synthesize the distinct concepts and find connections. This process of concept mapping felt like a big step towards understanding what this project will become!

This post exists within a series of reflections on my final degree project in the Graphic Design BFA program at the University of Arkansas. This project examines the experience of international students in America, and specifically at the University of Arkansas, in order to create a more comfortable and rich experience for them abroad.