How literature review matrix works for me

When I decided to make the literature review (LR) or synthesis matrix during the LR process, I didn’t expect how this matrix would help me in writing the LR until the day I was working on my paper for submission during the writing workshop. My supervisor thought I needed more references in that paper and I needed to get the paper ready in less than an hour. I just opened my LR matrix on PLE that I made earlier, looked through it again on the different aspects that I’ve made notes on, then I easily added more references where I saw appropriate to my paper without the need to reread all the related articles. Within half an hour, I had the paper ready with extra related references. That’s when I realized my hard work and time spent on my LR matrix has paid off.

I’ve done a few matrices on different research topics for my literature review but my LR matrix on PLE is the most comprehensive because that’s my major research topic that I focused on. I basically divided my matrix into a few aspects that I wanted to look into, so when I was reading each article about PLE, I’d take note of these aspects.

These aspects were the common issues about PLE that I wanted to talk about in my LR. All these notes really helped me in writing my LR on the overview of my understanding about the topic. The cite-able notes are the most valuable in my matrix because these notes were the ones that I cited in my LR as references using my own words. So, basically I’ve at least one cite-able note per article and sometimes I’ve more than one per article depending on what I was writing for LR. In a glance, I’ve every article summarized nicely and neatly in table format. Whenever I’ve new article to read, I just simply add another column to the table and make notes on the same aspects like the others.

In conclusion, I’m speaking from my real life experience that LR matrix has helped me not only in organizing my literature review but in saving me time and effort writing my LR in the long run. Making the LR matrix is the best (early) effort ever in my studious life.

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13 thoughts on “How literature review matrix works for me

  1. Excellent approach. Thank you for sharing.

    I really like how you started by mentioning one example of how this matrix helped you produce something relatively quickly… because I am sure it took you a long time to put the matrix together. But, hey, it pays-off in the end.

    And, above all, I like the idea of having one column of citable notes. I suppose that this means that you do not need to go back to the article to see what it is that you can cite from there on the chosen topic (say, ‘challenges’).

    Really useful.

    • Thanks Ana. Yes, I took at least 2 months at first to build up my matrices. You are right, it pays off in the end. Collecting citable notes is something I learn from Peg B. Single’s Demystifying Dissertation Writing. These prove to be the best thing I ever learn for my literature review. Hehe!

  2. That first 2 months was focusing in building the structure of the matrices. I spent more time on PLE before I moved to build more matrices on other topics. I guess a few months doing LR for Master level is acceptable. I assume it takes years to build comprehensive LR for PhD. Right?

  3. Hi Jennifer,
    I am using a literature matrix as well after reading about it on your blog. I’m just not quite sure what you mean with cite-able notes. What is this exact? English is not my first language so I’m having difficulty understanding. Do you mean a citation from the author or something? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi L.,

      Sorry for late reply. I was on quite a long holiday. I’m glad you are using literature matrix and the cite-able notes are something I learn from Peg Boyle’s book called Demystifying Dissertation Writing (read more here http://wp.me/pSJCA-5U). What I have been practicing was whenever I finished reading and made summary of an article in the matrix, I would make a statement on my on word about what the article represents that I could put into my own literature review as part of the argument/supporting facts about what I wanted to say. By putting the statement now as cite-able notes in the matrix can make your literature writing easier with just a quick reference to the matrix instead of rereading the article again or searching for the proper words to make your own statement about the article that you need for supporting your arguments in your literature review. If you haven’t read Peg Boyle’s book before, I truly recommend you to read it. It really helps me a lot. I have been using her single system together with the matrix and it truly works wonder in my literature review writing.

      If you need more clarification, feel free to ask. I will help in whatever way I can. Thanks.

  4. Pingback: Podcast Episode 8: Live #PhDchat with the Thesis Whisperer - Inger Mewburn | Literature Review HQ

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