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Writing the Literature Review

So, you have to write a Literature Review? What is a Literature Review? How is it different from an annotated bibliography? Find out all that and more--Here.


What is "Synthesis"?


"Literature review" by Raul P is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Synthesis refers to combining separate elements to create a whole.  When reading through your sources (peer reviewed journal articles, books, research studies, white papers etc.) you will pay attention to relationships between the studies, between groups in the studies, and look for any pattterns,  similarities or differences.  Pay attention to methodologies, unexplored themes, and things that may represent a "gap" in the literature.  These "gaps" will be things you will want to be sure to identify in your literature review.  

Wang, G. T., & Park, K. (2015). Reviewing the Literature. In Student Research and Report Writing: From Topic Selection to the Complete Paper. Hoboken, UNITED KINGDOM: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. Retrieved from


Ready, Set...Synthesize

  • Create an outline that puts your topics (and subtopics) into a logical order
  • Look at each subtopic that you have identified and determine what the articles in that group have in common with each other
  • Look at the articles in those subtopics that you have identified and look for areas where they differ.
  • If you spot findings that are contradictory, what differences do you think could account for those contradictions?  
  • Determine what general conclusions can be reported about that subtopic, and how it relates to the group of studies that you are discussing
  • As you write, remember to follow your outline, and use transitions as you move between topics 

Galvan, J. L. (2006). Writing literature reviews (3rd ed.). Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing

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