Organising themes and ideas from the literature helps you:

  • make connections
  • discern patterns
  • highlight emerging themes and how they have evolved
  • extend your knowledge
  • identify gaps in the literature
  • identify key researchers
  • understand how your research relates to that of others
  • contextualise a topic within a research area
  • prepare and structure your writing.

Literature grids

Literature grids, tables or review matrices, contain structured information extracted from your literature resources and can encourage critical thinking and analysis.

Example literature grid
AuthorYearFocusLocationMethodology Data collectionThemes/Categories Main findingsLimitations Revelancy to my research
Chambers and Mallone 2012 Breastfeeding experience of migrant women living in Australia Australia Phenomenology Semi-structured interviews
  • Cultural norms
  • Family support
Family support leads to higher rates of breastfeeding. Relatively small sample size High
Doyle and Crane 2018 Partners’ views on breastfeeding Sweden Mixed methods

Online survey

Focus groups

  • Family support
Green and Geller 2010 Breastfeeding in public Multiple Literature review Not applicable     Medium

When creating your literature grid:

  • make it relevant to your research question and objectives
  • remember there is no standard design
  • choose columns relevant to your literature, such as:
    • type of article (for example, review or case study)
    • methodology or study design
    • claims, conclusions, and key findings
    • geographic or demographic details of the study
    • strengths and weaknesses
    • practice implications
    • themes and categories.

Use a spreadsheet program (for example, Excel) to help you work more efficiently.

Spreadsheets help you to sort, filter and validate input using features such as drop-down lists.

Example Microsoft Excel literature grid (XLSX, 34.5 KB)

Learn to use Microsoft Excel

Try these techniques when designing your literature grid.


Concept maps

Ask the library

Common questions

Ask Us

More answers

We are here to help!

Find us in the libraries or contact us by phone or online.