When I read academic papers, I underline information I deem relevant, and later add that information to a mind map associated with the corresponding project. I’ve discussed this previously:
- Mind Mapping and Reference Digging Time Frame
- Research and Reference Management I
- Research and Reference Management II
This worked fairly well once for my qualifying exam research at Tulane. However, that was a relatively small set of papers in a short period of time. For a project that’s been going on longer than I’m going to explicitly admit here, it’s not possible to keep as much organizational information in one’s head. I’ve been collecting and mapping reference papers for some time on this project, and I hoped that all that effort would pay off when it came time to write the introduction and discussion.
It’s paying off in spades!
Today I spent a few hours going down the list of important notes from papers I’ve mapped, and translating that into important points with reference markers (I.e. which paper to reference). It worked like a dream. I’m quite confident now that once I finish mapping the rest of the relevant papers, things will keep dropping into place.
There’s one important bit of feedback about mapping papers that I discovered in this process — don’t even bother mapping secondary information. That is, don’t bother mapping information that your paper cites from elsewhere. Just read and map the referenced paper. I pretty much quit underlining that stuff recently anyway.