Lit Reviewing: Best “How-To” Things I’ve Learned, Best Tools/Forms I’ve Obtained


It’s been awhile, as it is crunch time, academically speaking.

This blog post was easy to create: It is a slight modification of a post I shared at a forum in response to a request for lit reviewing advice. I figured it’s about time I provide an update on the topic now that a bit of time has passed and I’ve learned some new things!

Below are some of the new lit reviewing knowledge, tools, books, advice, links, etc. that I’ve gained in the last few months.



There are FOUR seasoned authors who (in their books/works) have explained to me how to navigate the sea of literature and get to the good stuff but not drown in it. I so, so, so wish I had that information at the BEGINNING instead of near the end of my lit reviewing endeavor. Oh, well! Better late then never, I guess?

Author #1: Peg Boyle Single, PhD
The help is located in: her section on how to get in and get out of a source QUICKLY and EFFICIENTLY but SUCCESSFULLY . . . in her book Demystifying Dissertation Writing. LORD, how I WISH TO HEAVEN I had been taught this BEFORE I STARTED READING, ANNOTATING, and trying to LEARN/FAMILIARIZE MYSELF WITH the literature.


Author #2: Kristen Luker, PhD
The help is located in: her section on how to POINTEDLY read from the literature, how to learn/figure out what the best stuff (articles and books) is via a process that has the best stuff “rising to the top,” so to speak . . . in her book Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in an Age of Info-glut


Authors #3 and #4: Mike Wallace and Alison Wray (I’m 99% sure both are PhD’s)
The help is located: (1) at this website containing amazing tools/samples from the book (see the editable MS Word form/template attached below that you fill out in order to perform a Critical Analysis of a Text) and (2) within their book–especially chapters 8, 9, and 10 and the appendices . . . but the whole, entire book is priceless in my opinion.


If you are so inclined, take a gander at the reviews for this book, many written by profs. This may help you know whether this book will be useful to you, as well as might checking out the free forms and templates provided at the Sage website for their book. Particularly, looking at their MS Word Critical Analysis Template may help you make that call: It is a free template available at the samples tab of the book’s Sage website.

It is WELL-WORTH a trip to the library to photocopy Single’s and Luker’s advice, techniques, and spelled-out game plan for finding the lit and using the lit without drowning in either process.

Lastly I’ll share the fact that I am so utterly ridiculously happy that I conducted my annotated bibliography (an concise analysis and summary of articles in a collection you’ve “convened”) within the free program Citavi.

No program, in my opinion, is superior to the free pogram Citavi for lit reviewing. ESPECIALLY if you use the keyword function.

I have attached a sequence of screen captures of the REFERENCE tab in Citavi (every source in Citavi has it’s own REFERENCE tab with neat subtabs like Overview, Content, Context, Quotations, Tasks (to do with/regarding this source), etc.

If you look closely at the images that follow, you can glean all the wowser lit reviewy stuff that Citavi enables, such as creating a LINK between two sources and rating that link as (basically) “supportive to each other,” “really supportive of each other,” “refuting each other,” etc.

(If you look closely, you’ll also see a few typos of mine in the screen captures! Don’t look!)

It is very important to note that it is easy to compile and export all this work that you would do in Citavi to an MS Word file, a PDF, and other file types. To print out what I typed in the Evaluation field (where I wrote my analysis and summary for the article or book), I clicked on the blue “Evaluation” link, clicked on the File menu, and selected print. You can print to different file types.

1) Citivi reference OVERVIEW tab:


2) Citivi reference REFERENCE tab:

3) Citivi reference CONTENT tab:


4) Citivi reference CONTEXT tab:


5) Citivi reference QUOTATIONS (and notes) tab:


6) Citivi reference TASK & LOCATIONS tab:


Phenomenally nifty, eh, and scholar-tailored, yes? Mmm hmm: I concur!

There’s only so much a fellow STUDENT can really know and help a peer with . . . but I can say that these are the authors/books/tools/knowledge/info/methods/etc. that have best rendered me much more educated and effective about lit reviewing thus far!


  • What’s the BEST piece of advice you’ve ever received on how to review the lit? 
  • What’s your lit review process, and what do you like about it?

Well, that brings this blog post to a close. Wishing all student lit reviewers vibes: You can do this!


P.S. Aside and SUPER optional: There is a video that helped me (psychologically to understand that it is okay to be POINTED about one’s perusal through the literature: “Writing Your Literature Review: How to Cope with 10,000 Papers You Haven’t Read.” If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, a video explaining how to see the video is there. I think it costs like $5 or something to join the site and access the videos (I can’t remember: It may have been more). I understand why these lecturers charge to access the site: They put a LOT, LOT, LOT of work into it. It’s lifework of theirs.


4 thoughts on “Lit Reviewing: Best “How-To” Things I’ve Learned, Best Tools/Forms I’ve Obtained

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  3. Hello Mickey,

    Coincidentally I picked up “Salsa dancing into the social sciences” in the library just the other day. It was next to rather generically titled books on literature reviews. When you see something you don’t expect among others, you can’t help but pull it out and read. That’s the power of a great title!

    I only skimmed through because I was pressed time, and I didn’t borrow it. But I will now. What I remembered most are the anecdotes (those are fantastic because they make you feel normal) and “Damnation of 10000 index cards.” That’s me alright. Such is the power of having a research question to keep you on track and not meandering all over the place!

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