Behind every study there is usually a thorough literature search. If you are new to academia, such a literature search can feel a bit overwhelming, and where to start might not be obvious. Even experienced scientists find literature searches on new topics difficult. Simply typing a few relevant keywords into Google Scholar or Web of Science will usually give you thousands of hits, and finding your way among these references can be a challenge.
Plan your search
You can save a lot of time by planning your search. Note down what key words you are interested in, and in what combination. This way you can keep track of your searches and avoid missing valuable information. If you are new to a topic and more interested in the general picture than the latest updates, aiming for textbooks rather than research papers can be useful.
For a more in-depth description on searching techniques and how to find literature, visit the “Søk & Skriv”-website.
How you read a text will naturally depend on the objective of your reading. Sometimes you might be interested in only parts of a specific text, while other times your objective is to read a whole chapter to learn its content.
How you read is up to you, but you might benefit from the inclusion of reading strategies. Some example strategies are:
- • to actively stop yourself after you have finished a paragraph to ask yourself questions about the text.
- • to visualize the setting of the text and what is explains.
- • to actively relate the text to your own work.
- • to actively form opinions about what you read.
These are just some examples of how you can engage with the text, think more about what you read and furthermore, hopefully get more out of the text you are reading.
Active reading: Taking notes
Taking notes is a valuable tool when learning new material. It helps your brain process the material in a different way compared to when just reading. Simply skimming through your reading material without any form of highlighting or note-taking, can often result in you having to skim through the same material several times in the future. If you take good notes from the very start, you can avoid unnecessary double checking and long read-throughs.
Tips on how to use the highlighter
- • Using a highlighter when reading is helpful, however it loses its power if you highlight everything. You want the important points to stand out.
- • One way to avoid highlighting everything is to not highlight the first time you read the text.
- • Highlighting key concepts from each part of an article can help to quickly get an overview of the article in the future.
- • If you have different-colored highlighters you can create a color coding system where each color means something: for example “important”, “example”, “term”, “study further” etc.
For more information on reading strategies, visit the “Søk og Skriv”-website.
When you read other people’s work and base your statements of these, it is important that you credit the author(s) by providing a reference to their original work. Plagiarism is not ok.
By citing correctly you:
- • follow academic guidelines
- • acknowledge other people’s work
- • show that you have done a thorough literature search
- • avoid plagiarism
- • help the reader to find the original source
For more instructions on how to cite literature in your text, check the "Søk & Skriv"-website.
Software for reference management
There are several different software programmes that can help you in managing your literature resources. Here at UiB, students and employees have access to EndNote, which is a programme used by many scientists. Other good options are Mendeley (https://www.mendeley.com/), Zotero (https://www.zotero.org/), which are free to use. All of these programmes allow you to create your own searchable libraries with the references you have read or want to read. They can also help you to cite your references and to create references lists. The different programmes come with their own pros and cons, and it is up to you to decide which you prefer.