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Biology 231 - Research Methods

A collection of resources aimed at assisting students to develop their scientific research methodology skills

Structure of an Evidence Matrix

The purpose of a literature review is to demonstrate your familiarity with existing research and how your proposed research fits within it.  It should consist of at least 4-5 peer-reviewed articles and provide an integration of ideas, concepts, theories and findings.

Constructing an Evidence Matrix will assist in the dissection of the articles being reviewed and provide a system that easily organizes common themes for later discussion.

Create a spreadsheet with the following fields: 

Source Research Questions Methods Major Findings Theme #1 Theme #2 Theme #3
Article 1 Why was the article written? Sampling strategies? Samples? Conclusions? Errors?      
Article 2            
Article 3            
Article 4            

Themes are items of interest to you found within the article and are points of comparison between articles.

  • Has the subject or style of research evolved over time?
  • Are there any approaches or variables that have been consistently examined?  Do the articles ask the same questions?  Can you identify any gaps in research or inquiry?
  • Are you aware of any specific common theoretical models used?


NOTE:  It is crucial that when summarizing any content that you appropriate paraphrase the text entered into your matrix. If not, use quotation marks for any words that are not your own and provide page numbers for your quotes.  This will help avoid plagiarism.

Writing a Literature Review

In a full-length paper or thesis the literature review tends to be 4-5 paragraphs long and explains how your original research topic fits into the existing body of scholarship on the topic. 

A basic format is as follows:

Paragraph #1.  Introduction of the research topic.  "The purpose of the study is to...".

Paragraph #2.  Describe how others have studied the subjects (Methods column).  Include any sampling techniques, strategies and limitations to research processes.

Paragraph #3.  Discuss a common theme from two or more articles (identified in evidence matrix).

Paragraph #4.  Discuss a common theme from two or more articles (identified in evidence matrix).

Paragraph #5.  Discuss the existing research identified in previous paragraphs, then your research topic and why it is important.  Give strong examples why your research is relevant and necessary to build a stronger understanding of the subject.


  • Do not summarize each article read in a separate paragraph.  The purpose here is to critically analyze them as a whole and reflect.
  • When referencing an article in the literature, do not refer to it by its title.  Instead relate the article to the author and date.


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