Literature Review Tutorial

These pages have been developed by staff at CQUniversity to help postgraduate students conceptualize, research and write a literature review. The pages are intended as a guide and it is the responsibility of the supervisor to give advice.

Organising information (information management)

Select a strategy for managing your information so that the full reference is recorded accurately for later use. Most researchers use a software system to organise their references such as EndNote. CQUniversity has a site licence for installing EndNote which permits CQUniversity staff and students to use the software both on and off campus. The main functions of EndNote are:

  • creating and maintaining a database of references
  • downloading references from other databases
  • use with MSWord and Open Office Writer to insert citations into your work and produce the bibliography in the referencing style of your choice

More information about EndNote is available in the EndNote LibGuide.

Card files

Card file systems are an alternative to an electronic system.

The idea behind a card file is to establish a set of individual cards, each of which will represent a document or physical piece of information. These include the full reference, as well as any notes and annotations you make. One common arrangement of these cards is alphabetic, by the author's surname. Some researchers allocate a running number to each reference, and use this as their point of access. You must decide which is the most appropriate method for your own purposes.

Other details that can be noted on the cards are relevant keywords or subject headings, quotes or notes pertaining to the reference, abstracts or summaries, and a call number (if appropriate). Some people also add keywords or subject headings cards to assist locating reference at a later date. These 'guide cards' can be colour coded.

Filing systems

Whichever system you use, if you choose to keep paper copies of your references, you will need to devise a filing system. Here are some suggestions:

  • alphabetic by author
  • by running number or EndNote record number
  • by topic or project area
  • alphabetic within topic or subject area
  • by stage of research - introduction, methodology, data collection 
  • currency, or date retrieved
  • by unique code number

Make sure that you are consistent within your system, and that you link your physical files with your information management system, eg. include the relevant code number in your database record or card files.