How do academics organize knowledge

Organize literature correctly for the thesis

During your bachelor's or master's thesis, you will work with a large number of books, essays and articles. It is important that you always have an overview of the specialist literature and that you organize literature correctly. Therefore, you should document all sources that you find accordingly right from the start.

Include all specialist literature that you are likely to use for your work with all bibliographical information in Word or Excel, if more than 15 works are involved. If you also note the signature and the location of the literature there, you can quickly find a book if necessary. This is particularly useful for books that are part of the reference inventory of the university or departmental library and that are not allowed to be borrowed. The procedure also helps if the loan period for a book expires while you are writing. Many students use Excel to document this information in their bachelor thesis. You can also use index cards or some other medium, the only important thing is that you make appropriate notes. You can use this information later for your bibliography without having to research the individual titles again.

Tips for organizing the literature

You may have already spoken to a fellow student who was about to hand in his thesis and simply no longer knew in which book or essay he had read the great thought that he wanted to use for the last chapter of his thesis. We as librarians experience this all the time. Therefore our tip: If you read literature and discover a passage of text that you might want to use later, take notes. Reading literature actually consists of two sub-steps, reading itself and taking notes while reading. Put colored self-adhesive notes on the books you read, if that suits you. In the notes, make a note of what the text you have read is about and in which chapter of your own work you want to use what you have read.

If you make copies of articles or books, write the references directly on them or make a copy of the title page. Otherwise it is easy to lose track of the large number of copied literature. Technical literature that you can no longer identify later is scientifically worthless for your bachelor or master thesis.

Reference management programs or would you prefer Word and Excel files?

If you like to familiarize yourself with computer programs quickly and easily, you can also work with one of the numerous reference management programs such as Citavi, Zotero or Mendeley. Such programs are primarily intended for a dissertation or a scientific project. Literature found online with all bibliographical data can be quickly recorded using these programs, which saves time.

However, if you have difficulties familiarizing yourself with new programs, an Excel spreadsheet or Word file is sufficient to collect the literature for your work. As an alternative, you can work in the classic way with index cards. The index cards have the advantage that you can access the literature you have already found at any time, even without a computer.

Structure and edit research literature

In order to be able to properly use the specialist literature found for your thesis, you should edit the literature accordingly. Combine essays or passages from individual books so that you can quickly reconstruct the literature you have read later. Write down central quotations for your bachelor thesis or master thesis or record them on the computer. You can structure copies with underlining and colored markings and highlight central passages.

While evaluating the literature, you will soon discover that certain essays or passages from monographs are particularly important for individual chapters of your thesis. Mark the spots with colored and self-adhesive pieces of paper with appropriate comments. The notes have the advantage that you can remove them at any time and put them in a new place. In this way you can easily keep track of which bookstores or articles you want to use in which chapter.

You can also take the structure of your work and note there in which chapter you want to use the relevant literature. This also gives you an overview of where you will mainly use which literature in your bachelor thesis or master thesis.