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Writing a Literature Review: Phase 3: Recording Information

Tips on writing a literature review (in any subject).

Recording the Information

We all have different ways of recording information etc.:

  • Cards with notes.
  • Photocopied articles with text highlighted with notes.
  • Laptops, PDAs, etc.

Research logs can be simply keeping a notebook with any kind of comments you have about anything related to your project. The log can also be more structured. For example, you may have sections on:

  • searches tried
  • methods for analysis
  • relevent considerations
  • problems

It is a valuable part of your project. In it you document insights as you have them (you may not remember them later). These can be daily entries, or comments you enter whenever you do anything on your project. A good idea is to date when you write something down.

Examples of the "Matrix Method" one widely recognized and used approach for managing your literature search activities, are described on this page

Taking Notes, etc.

Some Tips on Recording the Information Found, on Taking Notes etc.:

  • It is sometimes sufficient to browse the text quickly. The introduction or conclusion often give a gist of the thesis and main points. Still, often a researcher must read much or all of a work, especially if it is of an authoritative or technical nature.
  • Begin with most recent studies and work backwards. A recent article’s list of references or bibliography might provide you with valuable works to consult.
  • If the report/article has an abstract, read it first.
  • Don’t trust your memory. Record all research. You'll never remember who said what if you neglect to take adequate notes!
  • Write down the complete citation for each work. Don't forget the page nos. for later use in the notes and bibliography. For Internet citations, note the URL.
  • Avoid "grandfather" citations. Return to original source.
  • Write all direct quotations precisely, word-for-word. Use quotation marks. Failure to put a direct text in quotes (or to credit the author) sets the stage for plagiarism.
  • Avoid copying too many direct quotations. Most of the review should be primarily in your own words with appropriate documentation of others’ ideas.
  • Do not stress just a single source or two. It is usually important in a literature review to provide evidence you consulted and used a wide range of resources.
  • For a contentious topic, present the opposing positions. Be objective. Do not overemphasize one side.

Documenting Searches Using the Matrix Method

The "Matrix Method" is an approach to organizing, monitoring, and documenting your search activities.

IMG from Kent State - Literature Reviews

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Mary Kate Boyd-Byrnes
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Sample Matrix Method Worksheet