Skip to Main Content

Mellon Mays Fellows Research Seminar

Professor Cherlon Ussery - Spring 2022

Pattern recognition

Once you've started collecting information sources you'll want to start organizing your collection so that you can quickly and easily find items when you need them.  You can also use data about the items in your collection to find patterns that may end up being helpful to you as you look for more sources or think about how your sources relate to each other.


Assigning tags to bookmarks, items in a bibliography, research notes, and documents in a collection is a fantastic way to allow yourself to sort in meaningful ways. Once you can sort, you can look for patterns and identify work that needs to be done (as well as see your progress).

  • Keywords to describe content
    The most obvious use of tags, and the easiest to start. Perhaps the hardest to use consistently.
  • Words describing workflow
    Tell yourself what needs to be done with items: to-read, skim bibliography, potential-data, etc.
  • Placement
    Where in your project will you use this item: introduction, section3, methodology, lit-review, theoretical-grounding, etc.


Use notes to add your own brief thoughts about an item in your collection.  This might highlight the point of the item or discuss in greater detail how you will use that item.

Most tools should allow you to add notes (or a description) and will let you search through your notes.  You can't sort or collect items together by the notes however.

Using other metadata

One of the great things about most tools we talk about here is that they let you record metadata about the items in your collection.  This can include the author's name, publication name, year published, or even source type.  All of these can be used to search your collection, but also to sort your items or to collect them together in groups of like items.

This can give you information such as:

  • What types of publications publish information on your topic?
  • Who are the top authors in your subject?
  • When was most of the scholarship done on this?