Literature Review: Citation tracing, Concept saturation and Results’ mind-mapping

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Stumbled upon a good write up about techniques that could help all researchers go through Literature Review process with a breeze and most importantly save times, better more impact.

  1. Citation tracing– This is a fundamental step to see if there is a gap in the literature and how each author is using the concepts in the field.  See example below:
  • Found 4 relevant articles
  • Read the articles
  • Go through the reference list of each article
  • Do they talk abstractly or is there any specific link to your research

Two combined ways to do Citation tracing:

  • Google Scholar backtracking search –
    • Search on Google Scholar with keywords and restrict the search within two to three years.
    • This will help you find 4-5 relevant articles which you can read and make notes.
    • This will help you not to get overwhelmed by the number of references on web which may all look relevant at first sight.
  • Narrow Mendeley keyword search 
    •  search database on Mendeley for specific keywords. Usually ( Mendeley is very good at this), the top 5 items in the search will be pretty relevant to what you are trying to find.
    • Read the articles, then quickly search through the references’ list and make sure that you have read some of the references.
    • Highlight those, remark if you have read them, or if you haven’t, whether they look relevant enough to try and find them and read them.
  1.  Concept saturation
  • Concept saturation is seeing the same citations repeated on a regular basis.
  • Example: For a chosen author and topic, map everything scholarly that there is and that is related to.
  • Once you found that every single author you had in the short list of citation  that you had to review in your citation tracing process were associated or citing Hawkins’ work, you will know I had reached concept saturation.
  1. Results’ mind-mapping
  • Finally, once you’ve read a number of papers using citation tracing (seeing who has cited whom, and whether their work is useful), and to ensure concept saturation, map these citing relationships and ideas in a mind map
  • Results’ mind mapping is important because it allows you to both have a clear overview of the literature and a map of who is citing whom, and where your own work may fit, as well as the different gaps in the literature you might be able to fill with your own research and literature review.
  • Many researchers use mind mapping software, but you can do it by hand too.


  1. How to do Literreature Review
  2. Data Saturation
  3. Google Scholar and Citing Relationships

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