A Blog of Writing Resources from The University of Scranton's Writing Center

Tag: Research Tools

Using a Research Log

A research log is a tool to help you organize, analyze, and evaluate sources  as you begin to gather information about a topic. It typically consists of a  table with labels across the top that serve as a set of instructions when approaching a new source.  Filling out each column helps you gather the information you need for your project.  For example, you’ll need to include the full-citation in your research log, which will allow to to copy and paste the full citation into your completed draft later. You also need to include what makes the source credible, so you’ll remember to check if it’s peer-reviewed or scholarly. That information will become important later as you determine which of your sources should be included in your draft based off their relevance and credibility. Perhaps you’ll have some sources in the log that support your argument, but they come from low quality sources. Comparing the credibility will help you make those choices.  Most importantly, a research log lets you  place all of your evidence in one spot so can easily compare data from each source. The table will ensure that you don’t confuse your sources or accidentally plagiarize by crediting a fact to a different  source. Finally, there’s a space for you to analyze the evidence in the log and link it to your main argument.

There’s two major reasons for using a research log :

1.) It will keep you organized.   Rather than jotting notes in a notebook, filling in the required information for each column in a research log will ensure you’ve collected the needed information before moving on to the next source. You won’t have to keep returning to previous sources or struggle to remember how you found a source because your search terms and databases are in the log. You’ll also never lose a source or forget where a quote came from.

2) It will help you compare  your evidence. Having the evidence from all of  the sources in one place lets you look at the data side-by-side to evaluate which items would be best to include in your paper. Looking at all of the evidence in a research log can also help you refine your thesis before you begin drafting.

If you have to write a paper that requires research, this tool can save you a significant amount of time, and it could eliminate stress later on in your writing process.

Here’s a template for a Research Log



A Literature Review Matrix

A matrix is a tool that allows you to quickly compare and contrast  multiple sources by placing their aims,  methods, and findings in  one chart.  These tables  allow you to see similarities or distinctions in methodologies, limitations, and findings in studies with related aims so you can look at a field more globally to identify a  niche to explore, or a new direction to pursue, or a potential knowledge gap. By comparing multiple sources through this method you can quickly identify commonalities and key differences that will allow you to propose a unique thesis or a potential research design for future inquiry. While you do not have to use a matrix to write a literature review, it is a great resource in seeing relationships between studies, and it becomes more essential as you examine more and more sources.

Here is an example of a matrix  with common elements; however, the categories of a matrix are usually dependent on the specific discipline, so feel free to adjust this document  in a way that best serves your research.

Literature Review Matrix



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