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Literature Reviews: 4. Reading & Organizing Your Information

Resources for students and faculty doing literature reviews.

4. Reading & Organizing Your Sources

As you read through your research, you'll want to start categorizing your sources.  Here are some tips to help you as you read.


1) Read with your research question in mind. Ask yourself: is this research answering my question?


2) Write down the key points for each source and note how they tie back to your research question.


Watch the video below for more tips on reading for a lit review, including how to use color-coding your sources by topic. Then take a look at the section "Ask yourself questions like these" on this webpage from the University of Toronto


Created by the Endicott College Writing Center. Posted with permission.

Reading scholarly resources can be challenging for students. View this tutorial, Quickly Read an Article or Book, for some advice.  The College Success Strategies guide also has some good resources on reading comprehension.

Once you've read all of your sources, you'll want to start organizing your sources into categories and start connecting them. One way to organize your sources is to use a synthesis matrix, a table that allows you to track themes.

Watch the video below and then look at the linked articles to learn how to create a synthesis matrix.  


Davis, A. (2016, June 26). Synthesis matrix tutorial [Video]. YouTube.

Taking good notes is imperative when writing a literature review! Here are some note-taking resources that you might want to use: 

A lot of students wonder when they are done searching for and reading resources for their literature review. A good rule of thumb is if you start seeing the same sources and information repeated in your research, you are done reading and ready to write. Your assignment guidelines may also specify the number of sources you need.