mapping the literatures – noting. #acwrimo work in progress

I have been asked many times to talk about my own noting practices. So now seems like as good a time as any. What do my notes look like for this literatures work? The caveat I must make here is that this is my way of noting, and I’m not suggesting here that it’s the only – or even the right – way to do it. Everyone finds their own system of noting. What’s important to see I think is that I rarely note a lot, and what I do note is always in relation to a specific interest and a specific question/s. I’m not noting in general, but for a very particular project.

Here’s a sample of notes about a group of papers about trust. This topic may or may not end up being relevant to our paper, but it could be interesting to think about how trustworthy academic blogs actually are, if we are asserting some kind of use for them.

(Hu & Shyam Sundar, 2010) Web is more trustworthy than blogs for health information.
Politics/journalism: Blog users trust information (B. T. J. Johnson & Kaye, 2004) ditto. (T. J. Johnson, Kaye, Bichard, & Wong, 2007).
(Kelleher & Miller, 2006) attributes this to the ‘human voice’ in blogs as opposed to web pages. (Kim, 2012) says that blog credibility can be predicted by the interaction between blog reliance and online news activity.
(K. a. Johnson, 2011) says students give more cred to instructors with social tweets than scholarly tweets.
(T. J. Johnson, Bichard, & Zhang, 2009) heavy blog users are selective.

Some individual articles merited a few sentences. So here is one example of my notes about a paper which develops a taxonomy, the same task that we are undertaking.

(Arora, 2012) – we need to go beyond metaphors to describe blogs; argues for cultural dimensions of blogs – spaces as utilitarian driven (place metaphor = highway), aesthetic driven (homes), context driven (parks), play driven (playgrounds), value driven (museums). Uses ANT.

The longest notes I took were on one article on academic blogging which covered much of the territory that we will, and another long set of notes were on a paper on how to develop a taxonomy. Here is this latter note. I include this here because this is about the lengthiest note I ever produce about anything. My motto is that less is always more when working with large sets of papers.

(Schmidt, 2007)
Argues for focus on blogging as practice. Most studies of clusters of activity not blogosphere. Mobilises Giddens.
Own literature review suggests blogs are; personal; topic related eg journalism, politics; corporate commitment; channels for expert communication and personal knowledge management [my comment: academic fits here?]; networked perspective.
Argues practice has
(1) rules – adequacy ( of media genre) and procedural – selection of content as recipient, publication as author, networking via hypertextual. Rules connect to power.
(2) relations, – hypertextual = visibility ( establishes centrality and peripherality) and social = social capital
(3) codes – platforms = services and scripts. Frames but does not limit.
A blogging episode (post) reproduces aspects of the guiding rules, establishes social relations and stabilizes or changes software. Fulfils communicative goals of information management, identity management and relationship management.

At the end of these mapping notes I also had a first go at summarizing the literatures as I knew them at that point – but only in relation to academic blogging. This is NOT a text I expect to end up in our final paper, although a form of it might do when it is edited, but writing this summary text was a way of consolidating in my mind the most pertinent papers I had found.

There is a significant body of work which reports on the use of blogging for pedagogical purposes within formal learning settings – that is used in face to face or virtual classrooms (Lester & Paulus, 2011)(Manfra & Lee, 2012)(Marchi & Ciceri, 2011)(McGrail & Davis, 2011)(Miceli, Murray, & Kennedy, 2010)(Sawmiller, 2010). We are not concerned with formal learning in this paper. There appears to be relatively little written about academic blogging in peer reviewed journals, apart from writings about their pedagogical applications.

We located one paper from an academic who blogged in the hope that the posts (about feminism) would serve as learning resources for readers who happened upon them (Sjoberg, 2012). We also found two papers about academic blogging that are highly relevant to our concerns. According to Ewins (2005), academics write blogs in order to: communicate with peers; create a single site to contain their activities; make intellectual connections across texts; make their thoughts enduring, often by referring to their own writings over time. He notes that the web offers a temporal resource which is somewhere between synchronous and drawn out as well as one which spans space/distance. He suggests that academic blogging helps to consolidate and stablise scholarly identity through the construction of a public narrative. He notes that blogs are both representative of the scholar and a representation, and this might present a danger in job and tenure applications and promotion, as a selection committee might well know too much about the blogger.

Gregg (2005) also examined academic blogging and suggests that:
“Blogs serve as a sort of short-term ideological resolution to the contradictions of the contemporary university workplace, a safe space to share the disappointment arising from the end of guaranteed ongoing employment, the growth of casualization and the lack of agency that persists in large organizations of the knowledge economy.” (p 471)
She argues that blogs can: (a) provide support for doctoral researchers who have inadequate institutional support and supervision, (b) offer a new form of mentoring and job seeking support, and (c) provide a space distinct from the parent culture of institutions and thus provide some kind of resolution of feelings of membership of an academic community. She notes that, despite the blogger’s investment in the communitarian ideals of ‘the university’, blogs may well also be a form of individualized self-promotion, and thus help to constitute the corporatized academic.

So there you are, that’s my notes and my mote-taking approach. Meanwhile I’m still searching and reading – finding the blogs about blogging, buying books from ‘that website’ (this post is a commercial free zone) to be rushed to me express post – and getting ready for the third stage of literatures work.

Arora, P. (2012). Typology of Web 2.0 spheres: Understanding the cultural dimensions of social media spaces. Current Sociology, 60(5), 599–618.
Hu, Y., & Shyam Sundar, S. (2010). Effects of Online Health Sources on Credibility and Behavioral Intentions. Communication Research , 37 (1 ), 105–132.
Johnson, B. T. J., & Kaye, B. K. (2004). Wag the blog : how reliance on traditional media and the internet influence credibility perceptions of weblogs among blog users Journallism and Mass Communication Quarterly 81(3) 622-642
Johnson, K. a. (2011). The effect of Twitter posts on students’ perceptions of instructor credibility. Learning, Media and Technology, 36(1), 21–38.
Johnson, T. J., Bichard, S. L., & Zhang, W. (2009). Communication Communities or CyberGhettos?: A Path Analysis Model Examining Factors that Explain Selective Exposure to Blogs. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15(1), 60–82.
Johnson, T. J., Kaye, B. K., Bichard, S. L., & Wong, W. J. (2007). Every Blog Has Its Day: Politically-interested Internet Users’ Perceptions of Blog Credibility. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 100–122.
Kelleher, T., & Miller, B. M. (2006). Organizational Blogs and the Human Voice: Relational Strategies and Relational Outcomes. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), 395–414.
Kim, D. (2012). Interacting is believing? Examining bottom-up credibility of blogs among politically interested Internet users. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17(4), 422–435.
Lester, J. N., & Paulus, T. M. (2011). Accountability and public displays of knowing in an undergraduate computer-mediated communication context. Discourse Studies , 13 (6 ), 671–686.
Manfra, M. M., & Lee, J. K. (2012). “You have to know the past to (blog) the present:” Using an Educational Blog to Engage Students in U.S. History. Computers in the Schools, 29(1-2), 118–134.
Marchi, S., & Ciceri, E. (2011). Login and logout: practices of resistance and presence in virtual environments as a kind of reflective learning activity. Reflective Practice, 12(2), 209–223.
McGrail, E., & Davis, A. (2011). The Influence of Classroom Blogging on Elementary Student Writing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 25(4), 415–437.
Miceli, T., Murray, S. V., & Kennedy, C. (2010). Using an L2 blog to enhance learners’ participation and sense of community. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 23(4), 321–341.
Sawmiller, A. (2010). Classroom Blogging: What is the Role in Science Learning? The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 83(2), 44–48.
Schmidt, J. (2007). Blogging Practices: An Analytical Framework. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4), 1409–1427.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in blogging, blogging taxonomy, literature mapping, literature review, literature themes, note-taking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to mapping the literatures – noting. #acwrimo work in progress

  1. petermalling says:

    Thanks for sharing your process honestly with us. It is really interesting to follow.
    I have a question about the structure of your notes. So now you give an example of some notes about trust. Did you create a heading in your notes document saying “trust” when you through your reading realised that that might emerge as a theme? Or did you already beforehand decide that “trust” would be one of the themes you’d be looking for while scrutinising the sources? So, generally, do the categories into which you group your notes emerge while you’re reading, and how’s your process for handling this? If reviewing many sources, keeping track of the themes can be a daunting – yet very important – task. Especially when entering a new topic, it may be difficult to start out with a set of themes. The themes in the literature will only appear as your reading progresses. I guess?
    While making your notes, do you jump around your notes document and fill in the notes under the relevant themes headings? Or do you somehow tag the individual notes with the themes, keeping all the notes from one paper together? I think a major challenge is to find a system to place the notes under the themes, while also keeping the notes from one paper together (less of a problem if you only make one note per paper summarising the main finding).
    Also: some of the notes are very short indeed. You’d think that they could be done just from reading the abstract. Do you sometimes limit yourself to reading the abstract, and make a note of the key finding(s) under the appropriate heading(s) in your note sheet? To be carried on to the paper eventually.


    • pat thomson says:

      Hi Peter
      This is a method suitable for a time limited project.
      The themes emerge from the reading. I don’t attribute them to start with. You need to have a workable number of articles to start developing themes.
      With a small number of articles like this I can just work around the document. Otherwise I use key words but you could also use tags. I think you might also be able to use something like nvivo to keep track of your notes and themes but I’ve not done this. You can keyword in endnote and mendeley too. The blog from literatureHQ has a lot of advice on tech hacks that you can use.
      Yes sometimes I just read the abstract or the beginning, headings and conclusion. This is if I can see that the article is only marginally relevant.
      I never write extensive notes on anything. The half page is the most, and that is and article that is on the same topic as mine, and it includes a direct quote.


      • petermalling says:

        Hi Pat
        Thanks for the quick reply. After I posted the reply I found an earlier posting where you actually go more into depth with the note taking process. Very nice to know that your structure emerges while you research the lit.


  2. Pingback: I can’t find anything written on my topic… really? | patter

  3. Hi, thank you very much for your channel videos, it’s purposeful.
    I have a question, I was started writing the research paper but in the study location o there is no previous research, so how can I write a literature review? is it necessary the literature review to be for the same study location?


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