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Document your plans, thoughts and choices as you start, and as you proceed. For example ask what ?, and why ?, and how do I know ?
Use a "paper" notebook, or use "folders" with "Word" documents on your computer. Or use software programs like Evernote , or Dropbox. Those programs support making notes on computer and 'saving to cloud' for access. As noted above, each of these research log tools might have sections for different kinds of comments.
See UsingResearch Logs box at right.
Also other boxes on documenting searches.
Save references for items you think might have relevant content.
Save articles pdfs, paper copies
Save links to information, etc.
Save screens with information
Set up access to references and to articles you have downloaded. See Software for Managing just below.
More Advice for Documenting Searches
Check out these resources for tips on how to keep track of your search process!
Using Research Logs to Document Your Review Plans, Choices, Reasons, and Activities
Simple Logs or "Notebooks"
You might simply keep a notebook with any kind of comments or questions you have about anything related to your project. You may have sections on your initial understanding and goals for the project, on searches tried, on methods for analysis, on possible relevent considerations, on problems, etc.
More Involved Logs, "Notebooks", or a "File/Folder System".
You may have notebook sections like the following for comments, etc. related to your review project. These may also be separate "files" or "folders" in a "filing system" (again, paper or electronic).
Background and Planning Initial information, thoughts, and plans/timeline for completing. Also ideas concerning changes to plans.
Research topic/questions Initial, updated and final drafts of your topic.
Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria (IE Criteria) What are you looking for that will lead you to choose the sources that might have information you need. The criteria also indicate what information sources you will not choose to use (exclude). Also you might list what will guide your selection of actual content/information eventually used/incorporated into your review.
Scoping or Ad hoc searches & results Initial "reconnaissance" for initial mapping of an area or for periodic update/checking, etc. It is possible to adjust your IE criteria.
Full Search Design/Search results/ Use of results/Search Modification, etc.
Extraction What information you need and in fact are choosing to pull out of sources to use.
Analysis or Synthesis Ideas, sketches, thinking in response to the information you have identified in the information sources.
Browsing Information activities that are "not systematic", online, or in the "library stacks", etc.
"Extra" Ideas that don't fit elsewhere in notebook, thoughts that are kind of serendipitous. etc.
ILL - Actions taken to get items from outside of KSU or Ohio, and results.
Drafts of review
In addition to a research log (or filing system) for documenting your overall "literature review" goals, actitivies, ideas, and comments, etc., there are more detailed approaches for documenting your literature search activities (e.g., document computer searches, article selection, and the selection of information for use from the articles). Thoughts and resources for this kind of documenting are below.
How to Document Your Literature Search Process
Here is a step-by-step framework to consider for documenting your literature search process:
Provide a purpose statement.
Document the databases or search engines used.
Specify the limits applied to the search.
List the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the search.
List the search terms used.
Document the search process for each search resource used.
Assess retrieved articles for relevance.
Document a summary table of included articles.
Provide a statement specifying the number of retrieved articles.
Taken from: Kable, A. H., Pich, J., and Maslin-Prothero, S. (2012) A structured approach to documenting a search strategy for publication: A 12-step guideline for authors. Nurse Education Today, 32, 878-886.
Reviewing the Literature Using the Matrix Method
The "Matrix Method" is an approach to organizing, monitoring, and documenting your search activities.
Create Your Own matrix in MS Word. This blank matrix is ready for you to use for your own research review.
More on what information to "Extract and Evaluate"
Some questions to ask when appraising the literature!
1. From Doing a Literature Review in Health and Social Care:A Practical Guide by Helen Aveyard
What is the journal of publication?
What is the research question and why was the study conducted?
What method was selected to undertake the research?
Has the appropriate sample been obtained?
How were the data collected?
How were the data analyzed?
2. Critical Appraisal Tools
It can be valuable to use "tools for appraising" the literature that is then used in a literature review.
"Critical appraisal is an integral process in Evidence Based Practice. Critical appraisal aims to identify methodological flaws in the literature and provide consumers of research evidence the opportunity to make informed decisions about the quality of research evidence..." This site offers "a list of critical appraisal tools, linked to the websites where they were developed." - from the International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (iCAHE).