Abstract Review–organize and cross-reference your literature

Once you have your dissertation prospectus approved, you’ll be moving into high research gear! It might be daunting to think about all you have to do, but inch-by-inch, its a cinch. In this post, I will describe how you can use an Abstract Review to jump start your research process, by setting up a structured method of identifying and organizing the articles you find, and cross-referencing them to look at in more detail later.

Abstract Review Throughout this post, I will refer to specific slide numbers of my Voice Thread on Organizing your Lit Review, that I talk about in a my note taking blog post.

Early Goal: Use the Abstract Review to identify articles on your topic to prepare for the construction of your dissertation outline.

The graphic below is an overview of the literature research process. You are starting at the star; working to identify and obtain articles. During the Abstract Review, you are trying to accomplish the first three stages. Your job is to work on getting a good feel for what literature is out there regarding the major topics of your dissertation. Read chapter 8 of Dr. Dawidowicz’s book, Literature Reviews Made Easy so you see how you’ll use the information you’re organizing during this phase of the process.


Your To-Do List for the Abstract Review

Step 1: ID and Obtain Research Articles

  • Develop a system for using and tracking the index and key terms you use to search databases and Google Scholar.


Step 2: Conduct Abstract Review & Organize Full Text Articles

  • Skim Abstracts of articles that look like good candidates for inclusion in your lit review; Slide #13 of my Voice Thread.
  • Obtain, download, and store full text articles using a solid organization method (I highly suggest using Zotero or Endnote).
    • Consider the use of Walden’s Document Delivery System (DDS) for articles not available from Walden’s databases or Google Scholar.
    • Name the pdf full-text articles consistently. I like to put the primary author first, a few words from the title, then the year. For example:
      • Howard-Jones_NeuroscienceTechnology_2015.pdf

Step 3: Cross Reference Each Article

  • Assign tags to the article based on what you learned in the abstract (Decide which aspects of your literature review the article may help you write.)
    • Attach tags to articles
      • Use your electronic bibliography software to connect your tags to that article…OR
      • Begin a matrix for the articles you’re finding. Slide #16 of my Voice Thread.
    • See this blog post for more information on how to use LibSubQ’s for an efficient tagging system. (Coming soon!)
    • Take basic notes: If you want to enter some notes into your bibliography software or matrix at this time, you can. If not, you can wait to do this after the outline is developed. Do what makes to most sense for you.
    • Note: You’ll develop your first draft of an outline after you complete the abstract review.  At each stage after, you will edit the outline to align with the ebb and flow of the what you learn from reading research articles in depth. I describe more of this process in the post titled, “Guidesheet for Dissertation Review.” I provide a document aligned to Dr. Dawidowicz’s book to help you set goals for the literature review process.

These three steps will get you on your way to writing that dissertation proposal. Good luck!

~Dr. Darci


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