Using a writing matrix to maintain academic productivity
In their recent TAA webinar, “Writing a Dissertation and Beyond: Tips & Tools for Launching and Maintaining Your Academic Writing Productivity“, presenters Danielle Feeney and Margarita Huerta discuss research-based, practical tools and tips that have helped them successfully complete dissertations and launch productive academic careers. Among the tips and tools shared during their presentation was the use of a writing matrix.
Known by several names, including the matrix method or literature review matrix, Huerta says that “the goal of the writing matrix is to ‘own’ the literature for your projects.” At its core, a writing matrix is a written record of your reading.
Huerta says that since reading is essential to writing, it’s important to keep track of our reading efforts as part of our writing time. The writing matrix not only allows for this added record keeping, but also helps to “organize information and thoughts” and lets you keep all of the information from various resources in one place – saving valuable time as compared to searching through a collection of highlighted and annotated articles.
By bringing all of your research notes into a single location, you can more easily identify common themes across the literature making it easier to synthesize rather than simply summarize what you’ve read. The writing matrix organizes columns of key information that can be sorted, searched, and examined in a variety of ways. The table approach to the writing matrix allows it to be easily structured using either Word or Excel and similar programs.
The columns included in your matrix may be standard information (author, title, methodology, etc.) or may be specific to your area of interest or research with additional columns for key information from the literature review process. An additional column for notes/thoughts/other things can collect ideas that come up during the process so that they can be captured in the moment without disrupting the productive flow of the review itself.
Multiple matrices can be used for different writing projects or threads of research interest. You may choose to create a matrix for each article, for your dissertation, or one for a topic of interest that continues to expand across your career as you continue researching and writing in that area.
To get started, download their writing matrix template today.