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Conducting a Literature Review: Keeping Track of Information

A guide to the basic steps of doing a literature review.

Use Citation/Reference Management Tools

Track sources and format bibliographies as well as download citations from library catalogs and databases.

  Zotero is a free Firefox plugin.  It was developed by historians to support historical and related  research.  

 Check out this page for a comparison of several citation managers.

Mendeley is a free reference manager that not only allows you to easily create your own library of information references (articles, books, book chapters, websites etc.), you can access it anywhere, annotate articles as you read them, and with a plug in for your word processor, you can cite as you write.  As a Mendeley user you are automatically part of a wide academic social network which can put you in touch with researchers.

Image result for mendeley

Why Cite?

  • To avoid plagiarism
  • Give proper credit to the authors of the information you use
  • Allow readers to find your sources
  • Avoid serious academic consequences

    Use Effective Note-Taking

    It is good practice to keep a record of your search results, methodology and strategy, so you don't have to go through them over and over again.

    • Start with the newest research.  Recent research often points to useful older research.
    • Read the abstract (if supplied), the introduction and conclusion.
    • Scan the item to see if you can see how it's organized.
    • Document any quotations you'd like to save for later. Use quotation marks and note the complete citation and page number for the quote.
    • Paraphrase or summarize some main points.

    Use Search Logs

    Keep a search log - in a notebook, an online document, a spreadsheet, whatever format you prefer.  Make a note of which search words you use in which databases, and whether or not the search is successful. 

    Example of a search log to help keep track of the sources you have used.