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Writing a Literature Review


Phase 3: Recording Information

Tips on writing a literature review (in any subject).

Recording the Info.

We all have different ways of recording information etc.:

  • Cards with notes.
  • Photocopied articles with text highlighted with notes.
  • Laptops, PDAs, etc.

Citation Software



Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free Firefox, Chrome, & Safari extension that helps you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives within your web browser. Zotero allows you to automatically import references and full text documents from online catalogs (e.g. Holmes, WorldCat) and databases (e.g. JSTOR, America: History & Life), as well as open websites like Amazon, newspaper sites, blogs, even Flickr and YouTube. You can then easily create automatically formatted bibliographies and in-text citations from your library of references. Zotero is a production of the Center for History & New Media and George Mason University.

Download ZoteroMore about Zotero


Taking Notes, etc.

Some Tips on Recording the Information Found, on Taking Notes etc.:

  • It is sometimes sufficient to browse the text quickly. The introduction or conclusion often give a gist of the thesis and main points. Still, often a researcher must read much or all of a work, especially if it is of an authoritative or technical nature.
  • Begin with most recent studies and work backwards. A recent article’s list of references or bibliography might provide you with valuable works to consult.
  • If the report/article has an abstract, read it first.
  • Don’t trust your memory. Record all research. You'll never remember who said what if you neglect to take adequate notes!
  • Write down the complete citation for each work. Don't forget the page nos. for later use in the notes and bibliography. For Internet citations, note the URL.
  • Avoid "grandfather" citations. Return to original source.
  • Write all direct quotations precisely, word-for-word. Use quotation marks. Failure to put a direct text in quotes (or to credit the author) sets the stage for plagiarism.
  • Avoid copying too many direct quotations. Most of the review should be primarily in your own words with appropriate documentation of others’ ideas.
  • Do not stress just a single source or two. It is usually important in a literature review to provide evidence you consulted and used a wide range of resources.
  • For a contentious topic, present the opposing positions. Be objective. Do not overemphasize one side.