Step One: Organize the Process
Being organized is extremely important! Take time to think about how you will organize your information before you get too far into it. Here are some things you'll need to keep track of:
- Your thoughts
- Use Word documents or a note-taking software like Evernote or OneNote to keep track of your research troughts and questions.
- Your live search strategies
- Most databases let you save searches - make use of that whenever possible to allow for easy recovery, further development, and auto-alerts of new materials.
- Your search strategies for reporting
- Capturing your search strategies in image (screenshot) and text form makes reporting your methodology easy when it's time to write your manuscript, as well as giving you an easy way to see your search at a glance. Word documents or Excel speadsheets are a good way to store text.
- Your articles
- Use a citation manager! More information below.
Resources for Managing Your Information
The abundance of information--some useful, some not--has turned us all into curators of our personal collections. If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the information in your life, or just want to find a way to format a few citations, take a look at this page to learn about citation management, productivity tools, alerts and feeds, and personal archiving.
Citation Management Tools
Citation managers are software packages used to create personalized databases of citation information and notes. They allow you to import and organize citation information from article indexes and other sources; save pdfs and other documents; and format citations for your papers and bibliographies using APA and many other styles. include your own notes.
- Mendeley is a freely available citation manager that helps you manage your PDF collections. It is the recommended starting point when choosing a reference manager.
Step Two: Find Information
Help resources for Ovid MEDLINE
Literature Searching in Ovid Medline Tutorial Series: Learn about literature searching in Ovid Medline including how to use MeSH headings and keywords, how to limit a search, how to find full text and how to save a search.
Step Three: Manage Information
- Develop consistent documentation strategies to describe your entire process, the outcomes, and all decisions made
- Consider whether part (or all) of the ALCOA standards are useful for your work
- Use a file naming convention
- Don't rely on nesting in folders
- Be descriptive (files have a 255 character limit)
- Use numerical dates
- Avoid file names with uppercase letters, special characters, or spaces between words
- Use a consistent structure that will fall into a useful order for sorting
- List versions alphanumerically
- Develop a shallow folder structure that allows you to avoid duplicating files
- Back everything up! Remember the 3-2-1 rule
- 3 copies of your work on 2 different storage devices, at least 1 of which is off-site
- Depending on the type of data you're working with, consider special requirements (e.g., HIPAA data, PHI or PII).