Adapted Conceptual Synthesis Excel Dump

My adaptation of Raul Pacheco’s fabulous explanation of the Conceptual Synthesis Excel Dump + some tips on using google scholar effectively

1) Excel dump

Raul Pacheco has tons of amazing resources for how to conduct a literature review. I especially like the Excel dump, but check out his website for more literature review resources.

The idea behind the Excel dump is to get an overview of the literature, and to have a handy reference when you start writing up a literature review.

Columns to include in Excel dump

Depending on the topic of the literature review, it can make sense to add additional columns, but the basic columns that I would always include are

Research question
Main outcome variable
Include this in addition to the full citation so that you can sort on publication yearWhat is the main research question, in a sentence? (Examples)
Method / identification
Data source
Sampling method
Sample & population
In applied microeconomics studies, this is typically synonymous with “econometric method.” Common examples include panel data, instrumental variables, natural experiment, regression discontinuity, etc.Most data are a sample of a larger population; knowing who this population is and how they were drawn (sampling method) can help you assess how representative the sample is of that population
Key results
Related articles
Quotes is not commonly used in economics, but if there is a killer phrase in the paper it can be worth writing it down (together with the page it’s located on)Related articles (to help you keep track of which references and citations are linked to one another—how to do this is an art, not a science)

Other potentially useful columns

  • Location (e.g. list of countries / regions)
  • Time frame
  • Measurement

If the outcome variable or the key “treatment” variable is measured very differently across studies, it can be worth categorizing studies on this dimension. For example, “air pollution” can be measured in many ways:

  • Hourly $O_{3}$, $CO$, and $NO_{2}$ from California Air Resources Board monitor, 2.7 miles from study site.
  • Weekly zip code-level average. Computed as weighted average across all monitors within 20-miles of mother’s zip code.
  • Daily aerosol weighted averages for sub-districts. Constructed from satellite ozone monitoring points ~175km apart. In total, 226 unique ozone pollution grid points generated measurements for 3700 sub-districts.

Example: Air pollution and health (with focus on cognition)

This is an example from an excellent Excel dump (by Ayal Weiner-Kaplow) on air pollution and health, designed to inform a study on the effects of fine particulate matter on cognition in Kenya

2) Google scholar

Google Scholar is a great resource, but I find that many students don’t know how to use it effectively. Here are some slides on how to get the most out of it:

Research question examples

  • What is the relationship between dust exposure in utero and child mortality in Western Africa?
  • Does the pollution-infant mortality relationship differ between high- and low-income countries?

Back to Columns