Concept maps are graphic representations of the relationships between different concepts or ideas. You can use them at various stages in your research. For example, some people use them as a first step to map out everything they already know about their topic and the questions they would like answers to; and, in applied research, concept maps can also be used in the design process to help visualize a project. In the case of literature reviews, we can use a concept map to connect the ideas presented in different articles and illustrate common themes or gaps.
Check out the video on the right-hand side to learn more about concept mapping. If you prefer to use software to concept map, try free tools like Coggle.it or Miro.
As you read more and more articles, they may all start to blend together. It's important to keep track of everything that you read and write a quick summary as soon as you've finished reading. This way, when you begin writing your paper, you can refer back to your summaries and find information quickly.
One way to do this is to create a Synthesis Matrix in either Excel or Word. The following is a basic structure with suggested headings; however, you can adapt it to suit your needs:
Author, Year, Abbreviated Title
|What was the research question? Why did the author(s) set out to do the study?||What methodology or theoretical framework did the study use?||What were the major findings?|
You may consider adding columns for sub-topics such as limitations/gaps, implications for future research, or themes. As research is an iterative process, more headings might emerge as you get further into your searching.