Doing your research

Tasks for Doing your research

      1. Using your search strategy created last week to collate a large number of resources. (a list of documents relating to your topic)
      2. Apply the 3 pass method(below) for evaluating each resource (highlight which stage you have reached with each doc)
      3. Use the Review Matrix you created last week to help you synthesize, analyze, evaluate, and summarize your sources
PLEASE READ CAREFULLY: I have published & spent at least 3 hrs working on the reading tasks.

LENGTH. the reflective component of my post is a minimum of 200 words long.
PROJECT. All work in relation to this week’s tasks is shown (screenshots, copying, links to work…)
PROOFREADING. I have spellchecked and proofread the post.
IMAGE. My post contains at least one image with image information.
TITLE: I have included the words “Reading 3” in the title of the post.
LABEL: I have used “Week 3” as the label for the post.

Doing your research

Literature reviews develop critical appraisal skills, which requires critical reading. Reading critically means you evaluate arguments and ideas presented in sources by considering evidence and logic, external influences or confounding variables, limitations, interpretation of facts, and the overall validity of the conclusions. Active reading and note-taking are two strategies you can use to encourage critical reading.

Active Reading

Active reading strategies help you read critically to extract important information from sources. Determine the purpose of your research and select an active reading strategy that complements your learning style.

Active Reading

      • uses techniques to engage critically with a text;
      • considers the source’s information, the author’s approach, and the source’s significance to your work while you are reading;
      • can be used throughout all stages of your reading to help you synthesize, analyze, and evaluate sources; and
      • forms evaluations that will be the foundations of your literature review.

Passive Reading

      • is done without a critical mindset;
      • accepts all aspects of the source without questioning or consideration;
      • can be useful while simply seeking information to help you learn about a topic; and
      • builds your knowledge on a topic and directs your future reading.

Literature reviews require a substantial amount of reading, so approaching each source methodically results in a thorough understanding of the content and saves time. One strategy for active reading is to break your reading into three steps (pre-reading, reading, and post-reading) that collectively allow you to quickly examine all aspects of each source.


    1. Skim the title, subheadings, figures, table of contents, glossary, equations, index, keywords, and abstract.
    2. Ask yourself questions: What do you already know about the topic? What are the important details of the topic that you should be reading for? What could reasonably be expected about the study and its findings?


    1. Underline main ideas/thesis/research questions.
    2. Summarize the text in margins instead of highlighting.
    3. Write questions in the margins.
    4. Make diagrams, flow charts, or outlines to represent the main ideas of paragraphs.
    5. Identify and define unfamiliar concepts.
    6. Summarize the main idea of paragraphs in your own words using one sentence.
    7. Identify confusing sections to return to after further reading.
    8. Outline the main arguments by explaining how they support the thesis.
    9. Determine the significance of conclusions.


    1. Write a short overall summary of the source, including your preliminary evaluation of it, as if describing it to a friend.
    2. Return to confusing sections after reading other sources for additional background information.
    3. Review your notes to ensure you have not missed valuable information.
    4. Ask and answer “so what”? after reading the source.

A more structured active reading strategy, the Three-Pass Method, allows you to extract information from sources in a systematic manner.

Reading Sources: the Three-Pass Method

In addition to using active reading strategies, a consistent reading approach can help you extract information from sources while you read. For example, the three-pass method is one strategy that suggests reading each source three times. Use the Literature Review Matrix (PDF), which incorporates the three-pass method, to help you effectively read sources and record pertinent information.

First Read-Through

Objective: Quick scan of the source to decide if you need to read again

      1. Read title, abstract, and introduction
      2. Read headings and subheadings
      3. Look at tables, figures, and images
      4. Read conclusion
      5. Skim index, glossary, or references
After the Read-Through, You Should Be Able To…
      1. Categorize the source type (e.g., empirical, theoretical, qualitative, etc.)
      2. Give the theoretical context
      3. Assess the source’s credibility
      4. Describe the main contribution to the field
      5. Decide if you will use the source and read again

Second Read-Through

Objective: Read more details to grasp the content

      1. Using the active reading strategies described above, engage with the source’s text*
      2. Carefully read figures, diagrams, images, and tables*
      3. Record relevant unread references for you to read later

*Note: Some articles may be better examined by switching steps 1 and 2.

After the Read-Through, You Should Be Able To…
      1. Grasp content of paper
      2. Summarize main findings
      3. Identify parts you don’t understand so you can do further reading
      4. Decide to do a third read through or not

Third Read-Through
(Recommended for Full Comprehension)

Objective: Final read to fully understand the assumptions and validity of conclusions

      1. Identify and challenge every assumption and conclusion made by the authors
      2. Identify issues with experimental or analytical procedures
      3. Consider what you would do differently as the researcher
      4. Record ideas for future work
After the Read-Through, You Should Be Able To…
      1. Reconstruct the study as if you were the researcher
      2. Identify strengths and weaknesses of ideas
      3. Identify missing citations to relevant work
      4. Identify inherent assumptions

Active Note-Taking and Note-Making

Passive Note-Taking

      • is highlighting, underlining, copying and pasting quotations from sources
      • accepts all information as relevant

Active Note-Taking (Also Known As Note-Making)

      • answers questions
      • has a clear purpose (what you want to get out of a source)
      • seeks out connections, relationships, and processes
      • summarizes the text in your own words

Use a Review Matrix (or other effective note-taking technique) to summarize, synthesize, analyze, and evaluate sources while you read. This preliminary step is critical for writing a comprehensive and effective literature review. While there are many different methods of note-taking, the following suggestions will help you record information that is important and will guide you while you write your literature review.

What Information Do I Record?

The first step to note-taking is determining what information you should be recording. To do this, you need to identify the kind of information that will help you with your literature review by revisiting your review’s purpose and method. To help you decide what to record, try keeping the following questions in mind while you read:

      1. Brainstorm questions that you want to answer: What do we know about X? How has X been measured? Why is X significant? What do we not know about X? What do we want to know about X?
      2. For any relationships, draw a diagram to show the process or how findings relate to one another and other sources.
      3. What is the most important conclusion presented in the source?
      4. Is the source’s language or phrasing of a specific point significant enough to quote directly?
      5. Does the information target your purpose, answer your research question, or contradict your thesis?
      6. Are there any significant limitations?
      7. Are the specific details you are recording pertinent to your research question?
      8. Is the author presenting new material, techniques, methods, findings, or interpretations?

How Do I Record the Information?

Learning styles vary, so it is important to find a strategy that suits your learning needs. Some people highlight and then summarize, others underline and later transfer information into their Review Matrix, while some write notes in margins or directly in their Review Matrix. Consistent among effective note-takers is their high level of engagement. This is not an exhaustive list, but the following strategies may help you record the information you have decided to include in your literature review.

      • Write summaries or paraphrases after reading, but while not looking at the original source.
      • Use headings to organize similar notes.
      • Don’t spend too much time highlighting or underlining.
      • Record bibliographic information with corresponding notes so you remember where you got them from (author, year, page numbers).
      • Take notes on cue cards that can be arranged and rearranged.
      • Place direct quotations into quotation marks and record the page number.
      • Have a conversation with the text in the source’s margins.

Key Takeaways

      • Use reading and note-taking strategies that complement your literature review’s purpose.
      • Use the Review Matrix to help you synthesize, analyze, evaluate, and summarize your sources.
All resources adapted from

[maybe add tool for effective note making]