5 Tools for Easy Literature Review (With 2 Bonus Tools)
Research Writing

5 Tools for Easy Literature Review (With 2 Bonus Tools)

Sucheth
Sucheth, Arpit Sinha
Hands-on tools for literature review

Context matters. It matters when you’re watching a movie, when you’re part of a conversation, and it certainly matters when you’re presenting a research paper. Leaving it out of your article can be not only confusing but also disingenuous to your audience.

That’s where a literature review comes into play. And we’re here to discuss what is a literature review and how you can have an easier time writing it.

What is a literature review?

Your literature review is the lore behind your research paper. It comes in two forms, systematic and scoping, both serving the purpose of rounding up previously published works in your research area that led you to write and finish your own. A literature review is vital as it provides the reader with a critical overview of the existing body of knowledge, your methodology, and an opportunity for research applications.

Some steps to follow while writing your review:

  • Pick an accessible topic for your paper
  • Do thorough research and gather evidence surrounding your topic
  • Read and take notes diligently
  • Create a rough structure for your review
  • Synthesis your notes and write the first draft
  • Edit and proofread your literature review

Tools to streamline your literature review

A literature review is one of the most critical yet tedious stages in composing a research paper. Many students find it an uphill task since it requires extensive reading and careful organization.

Using the tools listed here, you can make your life easier by overcoming some of the existing challenges in literature reviews. From collecting and classifying to analyzing and publishing research outputs, these improve your productivity without additional effort or expenses.

1. SciSpace

SciSpace is a one-stop solution for an effective literature search and barrier-free access to scientific knowledge. It is a massive repository where you can find millions of peer-reviewed articles and full-text PDF files. You can use the platform in various ways to optimize your workflow.

Find the right information

The comprehensive search filter, teamed with the 'Trace' does a quick and easy job of finding what you want. You can narrow down on papers based on PDF availability, year of publishing, document type, and affiliated institution. Then, once you find the right paper, you can use the Trace feature to find related papers, authors, topics, and more.

Find instant explanations for papers and their abstracts

SciSpace has an AI assistant called SciSpace Copilot. Its primary function is to explain papers in simple terms. You can highlight text, clip maths and tables, and ask any question you're curious about. Copilot will give you an instant answer. While you're conducting a literature review, you can use Copilot to get a better clarity on the abstract and decide how relevant the paper is to your project.

Assess credibility of papers

Since a literature review forms the foundation of your research, it should come from credible and peer-reviewed origins. Sometimes even grey literature. SciSpace Discover helps you assess the quality of a source by providing an overview of its references, citations, and performance metrics.

Get the complete picture in no time

SciSpace Discover’s personalized suggestion engine helps you stay on course and get all the information related to the topic from one place. Every time you visit an article page, it provides you links to related papers. Besides that, it helps you understand what’s trending, who are the top authors, and the leading publishers on a topic.

Conveniently refer sources

‌To ensure you don't lose track of your sources, it’s best to make notes while doing your research. SciSpace Discover makes this step effortless. Click the 'Cite' button on an article page, and you will receive preloaded citation text in multiple styles. All you have to do is copy-paste it into your manuscript.

2. Mendeley

Mendeley Citation Manager is a free web and desktop application. It helps simplify your citation management workflow significantly. Here are some ways you can speed up your referencing game with Mendeley.

Generate citations and bibliographies

Easily add references from your Mendeley library to your Word document, change your citation style, and create a bibliography, all without leaving your document.

Retrieve references

It allows you to access your references quickly. Search for a term, and it will return results by referencing the year, author, or source.

Add PDFs

Add sources to your Mendeley library by dragging PDF to Mendeley Reference Manager. Mendeley will automatically remove the PDF(s) metadata and create a library entry.‌

Read and annotate documents

It helps you highlight and comment across multiple PDFs while keep them all in one place using Mendeley Notebook. Notebook pages are not tied to a reference and let you quote from many PDFs.

3. Zotero

Zotero is a free, open-source tool for managing citations that works as a plug-in on your browser. It helps you gather the information you need, cite your sources, lets you attach PDFs, notes, and images to your citations, and create bibliographies.

Import research articles to your database

Search for research articles on a keyword, and add relevant results to your database. Then, select the articles you are most interested in, and import them into Zotero.

Add bibliography in a variety of formats

With Zotero, you don’t have to scramble for different bibliography formats. Simply use the Zotero-Word plug-in to insert in-text citations and generate a bibliography.

Share your research

You can save a paper and sync it with an online library to easily share your research for group projects. Zotero can be used to create your database and decrease the time you spend formatting citations.

4. Sysrev

Sysrev facilitates screening, collaboration, and data extraction from academic publications, abstracts, and PDF documents using machine learning. The platform is free and supports public and Open Access projects only.

Some of the features of Sysrev include:

Group labels

Group labels can be a powerful concept for creating database tables from documents. When exported and re-imported, each group label creates a new table. To make labels for a project, go into the manage -> labels section of the project.

Group labels enable project managers to pull table information from documents. It makes it easier to communicate review results for specific articles.

Track reviewer performance

Sysrev's label counting tool provides filtering and visualization options for keeping track of the distribution of labels throughout the project's progress. Project managers can check their projects at any point to track progress and the reviewer's performance.

Tool for concordance

The Sysrev tool for concordance allows project administrators and reviewers to perform analysis on their labels. Concordance is measured by calculating the number of times users agree on the labels they have extracted.

5. Colandr

Colandr is a free, open-source, internet-based analysis and screening software based on machine learning. It was designed to ease collaboration across various stages of the systematic review procedure. The tool can be a little complex to use. So, here are the steps involved in working with Colandr.

Create a review

The first step to using Colandr is setting up an organized review project. This is helpful to librarians who are assisting researchers with systematic reviews.

Planning

The planning stage is setting the review's objectives along with research queries. Any reviewer can review the details of the planning stage. However, they can only be modified by the author for the review.

Citation screening/import

In this phase, users can upload their results from database searches. Colandr also offers an automated deduplication system.

Full-text screening

The system in Colandr will discover the combination of terms and expressions that are most useful for the reader. If an article is selected, it will be moved to the final step.

Data extraction/export

Colandr data extraction is more efficient than the manual method. It creates the form fields for data extraction during the planning stage of the review procedure. Users can decide to revisit or modify the form for data extraction after completing the initial screening.

Bonus Tools

6. SRDR+

SRDR+ is a web-based tool for extracting and managing systematic review or meta-analysis data. It is open and has a searchable archive of systematic reviews and their data.

7. Plot Digitizer

Plot Digitizer is an efficient tool for extracting information from graphs and images, equipped with many features that facilitate data extraction. The program comes with a free online application, which is adequate to extract data quickly.

Conclusion

Writing a literature review is not easy. It’s a time-consuming process, which can become tiring at times. The softwares mentioned in this blog do an excellent job of maximizing your efforts and helping you write literature reviews much more efficiently. With them, you can breathe a sigh of relief and give more time to your research.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is RRL in research?

RRL stands for Review of Related Literature and sometimes interchanged with ‘Literature Review.’ RRL is a body of studies relevant to the topic being researched. These studies may be in the form of journal articles, books, reports, and other similar documents. Review of related literature is used to support an argument or theory being made by the researcher, as well as to provide information on how others have approached the same topic.

2. What are few softwares and tools available for literature review?

While composing an effective literature review, you can use the following tools as assistance:

• SciSpace Discover

• Mendeley

• Zotero

• Sysrev

• Colandr

• SRDR+

3. How to generate an online literature review?

The Scispace Discover tool, which offers an excellent repository of millions of peer-reviewed articles and resources, will help you generate or create a literature review easily. You may find relevant information by utilizing the filter option, checking its credibility, tracing related topics and articles, and citing in widely accepted formats with a single click.

4. What does it mean to synthesize literature?

To synthesize literature is to take the main points and ideas from a number of sources and present them in a new way. The goal is to create a new piece of writing that pulls together the most important elements of all the sources you read. Make recommendations based on them, and connect them to the research.

5. Should we write abstract for literature review?

Abstracts, particularly for the literature review section, are not required. However, an abstract for the research paper, on the whole, is useful for summarizing the paper and letting readers know what to expect from it. It can also be used to summarize the main points of the paper so that readers have a better understanding of the paper's content before they read it.

6. How do you evaluate the quality of a literature review?

A few criteria that can assess the quality of a literature review include:

• Whether it is clear and well-written.

• Whether Information is current and up to date.

• Does it cover all of the relevant sources on the topic.

• Does it provide enough evidence to support its conclusions.

7. Is literature review mandatory?

Yes. Literature review is a mandatory part of any research project. It is a critical step in the process that allows you to establish the scope of your research and provide a background for the rest of your work.

8. What are the sources for a literature review?

There are 3 different sources for any literature review -
Primary sources:

• Reports

• Theses

• Conference proceedings

• Company reports

• Some government publications



Secondary sources:

• Journals

• Books

• Newspapers

• Articles by professional associations



Tertiary sources:

• Indexes

• Databases

• Catalogues

• Encyclopaedias

• Dictionaries

• Bibliographies

• Citation indexes

• Statistical data from government websites

9. What is the difference between a systematic review and a literature review?

A systematic review is a form of research that uses a rigorous method to generate knowledge from both published and unpublished data. A literature review, on the other hand, is a critical summary of an area of research within the context of what has already been published.