Conducting a Literature Review: Synthesize

Interactive learning module that guides you through the process of identifying, evaluating, and using scholarly information to research and write a literature review. URL:


After completing this section, you will be able to synthesize main ideas to present a thorough analysis of the literature related to your topic. You will be able to compare new knowledge with prior knowledge to determine the unique characteristics of the information reviewed.

  • Review the information in the Resources box to learn about using a synthesis matrix.
  • Create your own literature review synthesis matrix using the Word or Excel files available in the Activity box.
  • Organize and synthesize literature related to your topic using your synthesis matrix

Synthesize and Apply

When writing a literature review, your objective is to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge about your topic. Throughout the research process, you will identify a variety of resources that reveal what is known, and what is not known, about the issue described in your research question. 

As you complete your reading, you'll come across a number of ideas presented by different authors. You are expected to critically evaluate this information, identify themes and gaps, then synthesize what you have learned to provide your reader with a better understanding of the literature related to your topic.

Because you'll be working with a large number of resources, you may find it challenging to organize the information in a meaningful way. To help with this, you may want to create a synthesis matrix like the one shown below to record the main points of each information resource and document how they relate to each other.


Source #1 Source #2 Source #3 Source #4
Main Idea #1

Main Idea #2

Main Idea #3

Main Idea #4


To use the matrix, label each Source column with an author name or brief title. Use the area on the left to note the key points you identify in your reading. As you read each source, make notes in the appropriate Source column whenever you come across additional information that relates to each of the main ideas. When you have completed the chart, review your notes to identify common themes, areas of disagreement, or gaps in the literature.



Use one of these templates to create your own synthesis matrix as you read and synthesize the literature related to your topic.

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