The following process is an idealisation, and in many cases this is not exactly how things proceed, but nevertheless may prove helpful.

First pass: familiarisation

What's been done? What's already known?

Second pass: organisation and critical review

  • Organisation: like sorting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into piles of similar/related pieces.
  • Organise around themes/issues/questions rather than individual papers.
  • Critical review means identifying things like:
    • assumptions
    • methodological weaknesses
    • gaps, controversies, problems
    • new ways of using things or putting things together.

Third pass: placing your own research within the field