Before we jump into the details, let's look at what's needed.
What do you need to include in your literature review?
A literature review needs to provide a good understanding of the knowledge that exists, in relation to your topic of interest and generally includes:
- Analysis of existing research goals, approach and outcomes
- Different perspectives and arguments that you have found
- Gaps that exist or problems with what’s been done before
But where do you begin, how do you find what you need, remember and consolidate what you've read? This is how you can write a literature review with RAx:
5 steps to writing a literature review with RAx:
- Finding and deciding which research papers to read
- Critically reading different aspects of papers of interest
- Connecting the dots to find related information
- Identifying the gaps and comparing different perspectives
- Writing up your findings
How to find relevant research papers
It’s easy to spend lots of time just searching for information, trying to collect everything that exists up front. But you need to ensure you have time to evaluate and analyse the information you find. To avoid getting consumed in collection, find a starting point, a paper or initial list of papers of interest and hone in on what’s relevant to your context. The quicker you can do this, the more you can expand and narrow your search based on what’s relevant.
Your starting point:
- Make a list of keywords according to your research goals and approach and start searching your library sources or within journal databases
- Advisor recommendations to find your first research paper
Download RAx Web Importer to add pdfs, references and web pages from discovery engines directly into your RAx project
Upload or import your papers into RAx so you can decide which paper to read first.
It’s likely that you won’t have time to read everything that you find. So to help you to prioritise your reading list and decide what to read, you need to have a plan so you can utilise your time effectively.
Questions to ask to decide what to read:
- Does the title relate to my work or area of interest?
- Does the abstract say something new that I haven’t read before?
- Do I want to see the latest research or the earliest?
Your RAx project dashboard is designed to help you to choose a paper. There's various data points to help you to narrow down to what's relevant and decide where to begin:
- Popularity or a specific author
- Recency of research
- Abstract, figures or tables
- Key insights to find specific details
Whilst the abstract and summary information is quick to read, these are the main points that the author wants you to know about and not necessarily what’s going to be important to you.
If you know what you are looking for, then an easier and more comprehensive way to read is to focus on specific investigation questions or aspects of a paper. Create key insights to get more detailed insights.
Don't spend too long looking for your first paper!
How to critically read and review research papers
Do you know what you are looking for? Like any investigation, you will need a good set of interrogation questions to ensure you extract the information that you need. This will help you to actively think about what is important and also means you won’t need to read every word to review what’s of interest.
Critical reading requires you to understand the context of the research and key concepts so you can review and question the arguments, claims and approach. Define your goals before you begin reading:
- What do you need to know about the paper?
- What evidence are you looking for?
- What questions will you ask to assess the claims?
Before you begin reading, customise your RAx critique template, ready to record your findings.
- What are the main arguments?
- What are the premises/assumptions?
- What is the context/background?
- What is the significance/implication of the arguments?
- Any logical fallacy/inconsistency in the arguments?
- What is the approach/method proposed?
- What are the pros?
- What are the cons?
- Is the approach consistent with regards to the assumptions?
- How has the approach been evaluated?
- What data has been used (if any)?
- What are the findings/observations/insights?
- How do the findings support the argument?
- Can the findings be generalised?
- Is there any inconsistency in the findings?
- What are the limitations of the argument/claim?
- Things yet to clarify
You don't need to read the entire paper to extract the insights that you need! Systematically locate, comprehend and review different aspects of a paper. Key insights collates the information from a research paper into sections, so you can easily find the details such as the research goal or arguments.
If you come across information, terminology or concepts that are new, then quickly lookup related information and short reads to help you to understand.
After reviewing the section of interest or paper, test your comprehension skills and record your findings in your critique template.
Handy tips: tag your papers after each review to help recall and remember key points of interest.
How to connect the dots and find related information
Was the first paper you reviewed relevant or did you find a specific point of interest? You can now find your next read based on what's relevant from your first paper, with the ability to find related information by:
- Specific aspects of a paper
- Similar problem statement
- Similar approach
Within the reading room, simply click on related papers to see suggestions based on your paper or select text to narrow down to specific points of interest. Use the filters to refine your results.
Start connecting information to specific points of interest using in-line attachments, so you can explore different aspects, recall and consolidate your findings later.
Once you have selected your next paper, repeat the process of critically reading and connecting information.
Stay in control and manage your time effectively using reminders and by prioritising where to focus your exploration.
How to identify the gaps and compare research papers
So now you've read a number of papers, when do you start piecing it together to identify the gaps and formulate a rounded view of your findings? Start linking information as soon as you identify connections and tag papers so you can group and organise them according to questions, themes, common arguments, different approaches or what's important. As you read more, it's likely that you will come across:
1. New research questions
2. New approaches
3. New experimental design
4. Modified research questions
5. Modified experimental design
If you get a sense of deja-vu or want to find all the related information about a new or specific point of interest, simply compare with what's in your collection.
Connect information across your collection to help you to collate, remember and compare insights and find the gaps.
How to write up your literature review
Drafting often begins whilst connecting the dots and identifying the gaps. Begin by taking project level notes as you identify themes, discover relevant or new insights. Create multiple drafts as you explore different aspects of prior research or simply collate into one document.
As per any academic writing, a literature review needs to be structured to introduce the context, present the key findings and conclude with your evaluation.
Based on your findings, consider how best to logically structure the main content:
- Common themes, arguments, claims
- Different approaches
- Chronologically to show progress over time
Whilst writing up your findings, you can continue to explore related information and find connections.
How to stay organised whilst conducting a literature review
Conducting a literature review involves collecting information, reading, critiquing, re-reading, summarising, writing and remembering and so it’s important to stay organised.
Ensure you make best use of your time and remember what you’ve read.
- Keep track of all your sources of information, in one place
- Tag papers that you’ve read
- Identify and prioritise papers that you want to read
- Plan your time and set task reminders to keep on track
- Create a critique template before you begin so you can compare at the end
- Highlight important bits as you read and add notes to remember your trail of thought
- Write up your critique, straight after reviewing a paper, whilst the information is fresh in your mind
- Use tags or link information and papers as you come across similarities or points of interest to make it easier to remember and find connections later
RAx helps researchers to get to the insights of a research paper faster, uses adaptive AI to find related information and provides the tools needed to manage your literature review. All of your research papers, notes, critiques and connections, all in one place.
Your AI research companion