December 22, 2011

Recording information when literature searching

Some notes in preparation for revising RSSP Lit Searching workshop material... Merry Christmas to all!

Recording information

Every researcher will no doubt have their own way of doing this, but here are some methods to get you thinking about what might work for you. You don’t have to use only one method: I personally like a combination of the log book & accounts on databases, the filing cabinet and reference management software!

1) Index cards

Write the details of each item you might cite onto a card, and store/sort these.
Advantages: cards can be sorted by date, author, theme, relevance. Can be created without digital devices.
Disadvantages: cards can be lost, take time to create and cannot benefit from data export functions or be sorted using computing power!

2) A table

Record the details of all items onto a table: either a digital file or a printed record. NB it can be difficult to devise a table that can cater for all information types.

3) Log book

Information recorded day by day, into a log book (digital or print). This approach can be combined with the account functions on most databases and repositories where you can save records of interest and search histories.
Advantages: easy to re-trace your search steps and to plot progress.

4) A filing cabinet

Print out articles or front pages of articles (or photocopies of book title pages, etc), write the referencing details onto the front of them and staple notes with quotes and key concepts onto the print out.
This is similar to the Index cards mechanism and you can include some such cards into your filing cabinet as well, so could be useful if bringing back records from somewhere with little or no technology access.

5) Reference management software

Such as EndNote, EndNote Web, Mendeley, Zotero, Connotea
Advantages: data import functions can speed up your record creation process. ‘Cite while you write’ functions help you to keep track of references within your text as you write up, automatically creating your bibliography for you, within a document.
Disadvantages: sophisticated software takes time to learn how to use properly. Records are likely to need editing and supplementing even after importing. Referencing rules will also likely need editing to be sure that your data is represented correctly. Not always suited to research in the field if computer access will be limited.

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