Literature Review Tips

“You tend to see a lot of replication of other people’s work.

I had a friend who got through a doctoral program by photocopying articles and highlighting them, and through this mad sorting process, the paper would kind of emerge.“But bad things can happen to a good paper if you don’t organize your information.

Elsevier’s Mendeley gives people a lot of options for that.

I’ve had students come in with searches where the initial statements have been a little careless.

You send through the search results and they say, ‘Oh, well really the question is this.

In other instances, you might want to use synonyms to broaden your base.

Even if you have a really specific idea of what you’re looking for – like the effect of a specific nutrient on a specific cell to treat a specific disease, you will want to do a lot of searches to make sure you’re not missing anything.” Ian Evans Ian Evans is Content Director for Global Communications at Elsevier.When I undertook the task of writing a scientific literature review article last year, I had hoped that a Google search would reveal a handful of how-to pages thoughtfully created by veterans of this particular writing process.I found nothing of the sort, so I plowed ahead on my own, inventing techniques for myself.“It’s a much more fun approach and turns students into active participants in the learning process.So as part of a bigger project at the university, designed to revamp our approach to learning, I designed a game that would help students evolve their understanding of search.”At the start of the process, students take a pre-test, including an assessment of their own knowledge.Even though a database assumes ‘and,’ I sometimes recommend that people include it because it makes the logic of their search clear.“You also need to think about how focused a search needs to be.If it’s vague – as I said – you’ll maybe end up with 10 million results, or 10,000 results that aren’t the right thing.That, she says, is always a valuable thing to bring to the process of learning and teaching.Here, she shares her thoughts on the best ways to navigate the huge amount of content available to students and researchers, and how tools like Mendeley can make a difference.“When I was an art historian, I focussed on Eastern art, which is quite different to Western art,” she said.If you’re too precise, you might not find anything.Some platforms, like Science Direct, will have a taxonomy that helps identify articles with similar concepts but different wordings.

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