Once you have found literature that you want
to include in your review the task of summarizing it can be daunting. It is helpful to use a
data extraction tool while you are reviewing each article. Then, creating a table that
captures key points you need to consider for your analysis will make your summary more
accurate, effective and complete. This step is so important that I get my students
to do it for marks. If you are working on a literature review, trust me, you don’t want
to skip this step. If you do, the review will end up taking a lot longer to complete and
you will be more likely to miss important information. Also, if you are working on a
team these tables are absolutely essential for communication and collaboration.
To set up your table, first identify the number of columns you think you will need. I usually
start with seven. You can add more later if you need to, but I find it easier to remove
information before publication than to add it.
The headings in your table will depend on the information you need to collect, which
depends on the purpose of your review. In this video I will go over the ones I recommend
using as well as a few other helpful options. In the first column, always list the author
and the year of publication. To make things easier, you will also want to save your articles
in a folder on your hard drive by the author and year of publication. I will often also
note the country that the study was conducted in. That way it is easy for me to quickly
identify if more research is needed in my country specific to the topic of inquiry.
You can also note the country later in the table.
Discipline may also be useful to note either in the same column or a separate one if you
are looking at a multi-disciplinary topic such as hand hygiene practices. It can help
you identify if you need to consider looking in other areas to capture missing disciplines
or if there is a lack of evidence particular to a discipline. However, if your literature
review is focused on a particular discipline, such as nursing, than this information would
not add anything to your table and should not be used. Remember to keep your table as
concise as possible. Include the topic or focus of the study as
well as the research purpose or research question in the next column. The focus of the article
is absolutely critical to your summary table. Remember to be concise and specific. I also
like to quote the purpose of the article here. Noting the conceptual or theoretical framework
will help to inform you of the perspective the researchers are taking. You may also notice
common ones that you could consider for your future research proposal.
In any review it is important to note the paradigm and methods used. Typically, for
first year students I only expect them to identify the paradigm as Qualitative or Quantitative.
In upper years of the program and when I publish I expect a more specific identification of
the methodology. Sometimes, depending on the purpose of the review, I use separate columns
for the design, sampling method and data collection or analysis methods. For pragmatic reasons
I still limit the total number of columns in my table to seven or eight.
The context, setting and sample should also be noted. This is another location that the
country that the study was conducted in can be listed. Just don’t put the same information
in two spots. Be concise and consistent. Whenever you are putting more than one type of information
in a column make sure you are also consistent in the way and order it is listed. For example,
always note the setting then the sample in this column. Use a bulleted list or separate
information by paragraphs or periods. Key Findings need to be presented in a brief
way. Make sure you are not simply writing everything down. What findings are of particular
interest to the focus of your literature review? The more concise you are the better. Stay
focused. Noting the gaps in the research will help
you think about what research needs to be done. Make note of the limitations of the
study you are reading as well as areas for future research. This step can be particularly
useful when laying the foundation for your next research project.
Many published reviews now include all or part of these summary tables. Go take a look
at what has been published for more examples of how to construct your table.
If you are having difficulty finding the information you need to fill in your table please click
on the video on this slide. If you liked this video please let me know
by pressing the like button below, subscribing for more and commenting below. Thank you for