Here’s a summary of my notes that I kept from last year while writing the literature review for my Masters thesis on social networking for teachers’ professional learning.
I found other people’s notes useful so this might be too….
Step One: Got organised
- Generated key words from my research question
- Organised folders into broad categories in Zotero (combining standalone function as well as syncing to online)
Step Two: First broad search
- Used key words to search University of Waikato library database – and also used Google Scholar and Google Books
- Saved likely PDFs/docs to relevant Zotero folders (Chrome plugin fired nicely)
- Set up Google Sheet and organised different rows into different sections of the lit review (after Mutch, 2005, p.93)
Step Three: Evaluation
- Created new collection in Zotero specifically for lit review – three folders of decreasing relevance
- Began skimming and scanning through all the docs saved in Zotero, tagging them and then filing them according to relevance. Opened PDFs in Preview so I could annotate where relevant, too. Saved them and attached them as stored files to Zotero citation to come back to later.
- Dropped tags into a Google doc as I went along – in theory, all the tags related to ‘theory’ will help me find those items related to ‘theory’ later. This began to generate topics related to theory, content, findings and so on.
- Added more sources to Zotero when I read about useful docs e.g. in reference lists, citations
Step 4: Structuring
As a first attempt at beginning to work out what the broad themes might be in the review, I felt the need to begin to capture and record key ideas, moving on from brief notes and tagging, to synthesise as I go. To do this, I used
- Freemind (a brainstorming tool) to organise and categorise ideas and themes using the tags I recorded in the spreadsheet in step 2 that pointed to theories, methodologies, key ideas and contexts that emerged as I did the first skim read.
Image credits: Literature review, by Caro Wallis
3 thoughts on “How I used online tools to write my literature review”
Hi Karen, I am at the early stages of my thesis ( master of health sciences – nursing ) and was looking for a way of using online tools, including zotero to assist. Great to find your work – particularly like the online spread sheet. Not sure how to lay this out – is it possible to view your spread sheet?
Many thanks, Christine
A very belated reply here, Christine. Perhaps this link is of use? It’s not ‘the answer’ but it worked for me > http://bit.ly/19XCd7T. You’ll see I referenced each reading against various markers that I was looking for. These were determined by the underlying theoretical framework (in this case, activity theory). I also found it useful to tag each item in Zotero really accurately and fully, and add notes to each item as well. Hope this helps:)
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