This is the point where you sort articles by themes or categories in preparation for writing your lit review. You may find a synthesis matrix (see the example in the third box below) or this Synthesis Worksheet to be helpful in understanding how to synthesize multiple sources of information. Download the MS Word file for a copy of the worksheet:
|What is synthesis?
|What synthesis is NOT:
You can sort the literature in various ways, for example:
by themes or concepts
historically or chronologically (tracing a research question across time),or
Read your sources carefully and find the main idea(s) of each source
Look for similarities in your sources – which sources are talking about the same main ideas? (for example, sources that discuss the historical background on your topic)
This work can be messy. Don't worry if you have to go through a few iterations of the worksheet or matrix as you work on your lit review!
In the four examples below, only ONE shows a good example of synthesis: the fourth column, or Student D. For a web accessible version, click the link below the image.
Student A uses quotes from only ONE source and fails to use her own voice to make any arguments
Student B cherry picks quotes from THREE sources and uses block quotes instead of making his own point
Student C quotes from THREE sources but does not show how the sources interact or converse with one another and does not provide sources for their arguments in the final paragraph
Student D synthesizes from FIVE sources, shows how they relate to one another, and makes their own point about the amount of royalties Taylor Swift should receive from Spotify