Organising your material


How do you organise your materials to allow you to write a cohesive literature review without jumping around in your papers and losing the plot? I feel like I'm walking in quick sand territory - one minute a paper seems totally useless and then two days later it's the bible and a paper I thought was priceless a few days before is now not worth 'the paper it's printed on. Argh!!

I did several large literature searches on related themes and now that the final topic has been decided I can select my primary batch of key papers. However the project involves all of these other related themes so I have a LOT of additional material to go through.

I thought about my usual method of writing a short summary for each paper I read listing the key words and themes but this is taking me forever and now the sup wants the literature review in by the end of the week!

I feel as though I've been swallowed by the literature and I can't find the thread that will lead me back out. I used to swear by filing and labels but 'the maleable nature of the project means that one paper can move between methods, lit rev, and ethics all in one week!

What do you guys do to organise yourselves?