2nd Semester 2020/21: How to conduct a Structured Literature Review?

Sally A.M. Hogenboom

Literature reviews are an important part of conducting (new) scientific research. In this project you will get hands-on experience of conducting a structured literature review on the topic of “Word Association Tasks” (WATs). Specifically, we are interested in finding out the methodological variations that researchers employ when conducting WATs; variations in cue words, participant samples, number of provided associations, time constraints, and more.


The topic of the literature review is fixed, and perhaps does not directly align with your research interests. However, the main aim of this project is to teach you – in a hands-on approach – the intricacies of conducting a structured literature review. You will first learn how to narrow down the results to the studies of interest: specifying appropriate search strings, including conventional and grey databases, and specifying in- and exclusion criteria. We then move on to how to extract the abundance of information in a structured manner. In other words, we will need to construct a coding scheme. After we have constructed a coding scheme, we will put it to the test and code a number of papers. We are likely to find that our coding scheme missed out on important information or definitions were unclear. After we have revised the coding scheme we will (re-)code a few more papers. Finally, we finish this project by interpreting the coded data. Did all raters code the same information (i.e., inter-rater reliability)? And which methodological variations did researchers employ when conducting WATs?


Below you will find a global overview of the different tasks and meetings. The schedule is not set in stone and is something we can decide on as a group (e.g., fewer but longer meetings).


Week 1

-       Meeting: introduction

-       Getting to know the Word Association Tasks (WATs): an informal miniature literature review. (individual)

-       Meeting: WATs

  • Short 5 min presentation of everyone’s findings (individual)
  • Brainstorm: which (methodological) variations are of interest?

-       Meeting: Searching

  • Brainstorm: Specifying search strings
  • Brainstorm: Selecting databases

-       Extracting results, removing duplicates, preprocessing (individual)


Week 2

-       Meeting: Coding Scheme Version 1

  • Brainstorm: Variables of interest
  • do’s and don’ts for coding

-       Construct coding scheme version 1 (individual)

-       Meeting: Coding Scheme Version 1

  • Combine all individual coding schemes into one group coding scheme
  • Finalize definitions and pre-specified categories
  • Specify cross-coding policies

-       Literature coding round 1 (individual)

-       Meeting: Coding Scheme revisions


Week 3

-       Literature coding round 2 (individual)

-       Meeting: resolve coding inconsistencies

-       Literature coding round 3 (individual)

-       Final report: first start


Week 4

-       Meeting: first findings

  • Individual presentations of the first findings.

-       Final report: final version

-       Meeting: feedback


There are no prerequisites for this project. However, as discussed above: it is a hands-on project where you are expected to contribute by engaging in brainstorm sessions and giving short presentations of your findings.


Assessment will be based on participation throughout the project and the final report (pass/fail).


No references, this is where the fun starts!