Tracking my Research

Yesterday’s class focused on doing the literature review for our research and dissertation. This is applicable to both dissertation writing and for research publications, but there are unique differences in the depth and breadth of research to be reviewed for each purpose. We examined two types of research reviews – the systematic literature review and the meta-analysis review. As we discussed these styles of reviewing a body of work for a research question, I had the benefit of working with a classmate who is a research librarian (as her day job) who willing shared her expertise in doing these styles of literature review.

From this conversation I gained some valuable strategies and resources that I need to capture here, since this will shape how I continue to manage my citations and research collections.

  1. PRISMA flow diagram shapes and structures the systematic part of the search and selection of relevant research articles. I downloaded the framework document and the checklist for future reference.
  2. research tracking using a spreadsheet – I found tracking sheet examples to use for collecting WHAT I’m doing and WHEN I’m doing it – tracking the search parameters so I don’t duplicate or do the same thing to find the same results.
  3. citation collection using a spreadsheet – there are variations on these, so I’ll need to try them out to figure out which one works best since I’m already including and updating Zotero regularly as my main citation collection location. These spreadsheets will allow for some interesting options that may further organize my citations and allow the networking and analysis I wrote about earlier [Managing Analysis; Visualizing Data].
    1. Option One: Synthesizing different bodies of work in your literature review: The Conceptual Synthesis Excel Dump (CSED) technique by Raul Pacheco-Vega where he describes his process and offers a template that you can download and adapt for your own purposes.
    2. Option Two: Organizing Your Literature: Spreadsheet Style by Kathleen Clarke where she describes major and minor spreadsheet collections, with major spreadsheet having individual pages for topics and minor sheets where she pulls from major sheets for specific writing or research projects. The interesting option here is for a numbering system that mirrors the pdf collection in the folders you have on your computer where you store and save the research you’ve need to read or reference. I’ve already described how I colour code the folders so I remember which ones I have printed, read, and inserted into Zotero – Citation Creation post.]
    3. Option Three: How I use Excel to manage my Literature Review by Elaine Gregerson changes some of the headings with some interesting possibilities for capturing thoughts and critique comments with columns for ‘happy thoughts’, ‘unhappy thoughts’, and ‘ethical concerns’.

And just because I’m a lego geek, I had to put this here so I’ll remember this metaphor for how to build a better literature review, considering it as a set of colourful building blocks to create a three-dimensional visualization of the research I’m examining (using words and text rather than Lego bricks of course!).

The final piece here is managing the summaries or articles you’ve skimmed or read deeply. Raul Pecho-Vega describes these as reflective memos. This moves my understanding beyond the fours sentence summaries I’ve been doing since DS1, which I include as a note attached to the Zotero reference citation information for that article thus making them searchable as well as the article citations themselves. He describes it further on this post – My #AcWri Strategies: Write reflective memos and in My #AcWri strategies: Write memos about readings and about research. Additionally, there is a link to a Chapter 6 Memos and Diagrams in Corbin and Straus’ book “Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory”.

Image attribution Photo by Rick Mason on Unsplash