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McNair Scholars: 3. Organize Sources

Keeping Track of Your Literature

You are going to be finding numerous articles and resources as you review the literature. Some may just provide you with valuable background information, some you will eventually decide are not useful, and others will become part of your written review.

Before you start searching, consider doing the following:

1. Keep a search log, in a notebook, a Google or Word document, or other preferred method, in order to record: undefined

  • Databases or sources searched
  • Databases or sources to try next
  • Search terms and combinations of terms that were successful or unsuccessful
  • Searches to try later

2. Use a reference manager such as Mendeley, EndNote, or Zotero which will help you keep track of citations, links and PDFs as well as allow for note-taking and highlighting. Scroll down for more.

3. Create a literature review matrix which will help give you a bird's eye view of all of the sources you find most useful and why. See the box below.

3. Literature Review Matrix

A literature review matrix is a graphic organizer that gives you an overview of the articles you select, how each relates to your research question, and how they relate to each other. It gives you a start to the task of synthesizing concepts and data you find.

Create your own matrix using Google Docs or Sheets as you prefer. Keep in mind that you will rename labels that fit your research. You will likely edit your matrix headings as your research develops.

The following Literature Matrix template can help you get started.

1. Research Log

A search log helps you remember what searches and strategies you've tried and where you've tried them. You can make notes for future databases, searches, and sources to try. Here is one example.

2a. Mendeley

2b. Other Source/Citation Managers

Andersen Library supports two citation managers, listed below. To get help setting one up or using it, contact the librarian listed in the linked LibGuide.