Hacking the Literature Review: Opportunities and Innovations to Improve the Research Process

Jennifer Lubke, Trena M. Paulus, Virginia G. Britt, David P. Atkins


Research outputs across the academic disciplines are almost exclusively published electronically. Organizing and managing these digital resources for purposes of review, and with the technical savvy to do so, are now essential skills for graduate study and life in academia. Paradoxically, digital and web-based technologies provide greater ease and efficiency with which to gather mass amounts of information, while at the same time presenting new challenges for reading, analyzing, organizing, and storing resources. Students, scholars, and the librarians who support them must adopt and refine practices to convert from paper-full to paperless literature review. This article proposes a methodical, reproducible, three-stage process that harnesses the power digital tools bring to the research cycle, regardless of the user’s preferred platform or operating system. Focusing just on the literature review phase, we develop a conceptual framework, illustrated with concrete tips and advice for storing and organizing, reading and annotating, and analyzing and writing. We demonstrate how a researcher’s self-selected suite of tools may be used to complement and even overcome the limitations of comprehensive academic literature and composition platforms such as Docear and F1000Workspace, especially regarding qualitative data analysis software for analyzing and coding research literature. Using these techniques, librarians can become teachers and research partners supporting the skill development of faculty and students.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5860/rusq.56.4.285


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