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Literature Reviews

How to synthesise

Organise and categorise your content into themes or patterns. Examples of themes include:

  • Chronological
  • Geographical
  • Theory, issue or question
  • Importance (most to least); or
  • Topical (general to specific).

Evaluate or score resources as you go - you may like to add a column to your matrix for recording some type of coding system such as a + or -  or numerical value.

Synthesis, a written example

How not to write.

Smith (1970) reported that bilbies come out at night and eat chocolates. Jones (1972) described the variety of beetles eaten by bilbies on their daytime trips. Wheeler (1974) reported that bilbies eat only apples.

How to write.

The elusive bilby has provoked considerable disagreement over such essential facts as whether it is diurnal or nocturnal, and what constitutes its staple diet. Smith (1970) considered them to be nocturnal whereas Jones (1972) reported that they are daytime foragers. A similar disagreement about food preference can be observed in Smith (1970) who  reported bilbies had a fondness for chocolate, and in Jones (1974) who believed bilbies eat beetles and Wheeler (1974) who maintained that apples were the staple food. However, neither chocolate nor apples are indigenous to the bilby habitat, and it seems improbable that they are the main foodstuffs for bilbies.

Synthesising tools

Grouping papers by theme

Use this matrix to group papers according to themes you have identified in your topic.

Answering a specific question

Use this matrix to group papers according to the questions you asked when analysing your sources.

 Remember, it is common to use more than one method to record your notes.

Evaluating or scoring resources as you go can be helpful, you may like to add a column to your matrix for recording some type of coding system such as a + or -  or numerical value.

Spreadsheets: Creating Matrixes using spreadsheets can be useful if you have a lot of resources and you need to sort the information you have collected.

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