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Literature Reviews

Recording Your Search Strategy

Create a document that includes:

  • important keywords you want to search for
  • where you searched -- databases, search engines, library catalogs)
  • what you searched for -- search strings like "breast cancer" AND (diet or nutrition)
  • when you searched 

Organizing Your Files

When it comes to organizing your documents, keep it simple. Make sure to rename files downloaded from our databases or the internet. The default filenames are often unhelpful, like "contentserver.pdf" or "019967432.pdf". Rename PDFs using the first author's last name and a short title (lastname_shorttitle.pdf). Keep them in the same folder on your computer or citation manager. (Sub-folders are also a good idea, but make sure all your research can be found under the same main folder.)

If I downloaded this article,

Older, C. E., Diesel, A., Patterson, A. P., Meason-Smith, C., Johnson, T. J., Mansell, J., & ... Rodrigues Hoffmann, A. (2017). The feline skin microbiota: The bacteria inhabiting the skin of healthy and allergic cats. Plos ONE, 12(6), 1-18. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0178555

I would rename it older_felineskinmicrobiota.pdf.

Use a Citation Manager

Use a citation manager to:

  • create your own database of citations
  • store article PDFs
  • format your citations in your paper automatically

The Libraries officially support Refworks and EndNote, paid for through Student Tech Fee monies. Other (free) options include Mendeley and the open source Zotero.

Synthesis Matrix

Considering using a table to organize your study summaries and create a synthesis matrix. A synthesis matrix lets you track themes across multiple sources.

Alternately, you can create custom fields in your citation manager of choice to keep track of this information. Request a training session with a librarian to learn more about doing this.