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:



Use this template to create your own synthesis matrix to use as you read and synthesize the literature related to your topic.

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.

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.

  • For more information about using a syntesis matrix and to see an example, review the documents in the RESOURCES box on the left side of this screen.
  • Use the Word document linked from the ACTIVITY box on the left to create your own literature review synthesis matrix.
  • Use your synthesis matrix to organize and synthesize literature related to your topic. Write your literature review and use the rubric  in the ASSESS section of this module to do a self-assessment.


Image: (CC) J. M. Mas:

Central Michigan University Library, 250 East Preston Street, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859 | (989) 774-1100 | Contact Us

CMU, an AA/EO institution, strongly and actively strives to increase diversity and provide equal opportunity within its community.

Copyright © Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859 | (989) 774-4000 | Privacy Policy