Literature Review (Synthesis Paper)


A literature review (or synthesis paper) is intended to summarize and synthesize the pertinent research on a topic by professionals in the field. A literature review can stand alone or appear as part of a longer work, such as a research proposal. The quality of the literature review is dependent upon (a) the writer's clarity of purpose and focus of the research question; (b) the thoroughness of the writer's search; (c) the quality and reliability of the writer's sources; (d) the degree to which the writer provides synthesis ( i.e., relates research studies to one another and to the paper's thesis and purpose in meaningful ways); and (e) the objectivity of the writer in selecting, interpreting, organizing, and summarizing the research he or she has reviewed.

The links below provide information about, and examples of, literature reviews undertaken for a variety of purposes. Links are also provided for creating a literature review matrix.

Online Resources

Writing the Literature Review

Review of Literature

University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center

Writing A Psychology Literature Review

University of Washington Psychology Writing Center

How to Write a Literature Review

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Writing a Literature Review [a three-part site]

Wesleyan University Library

Guide to Writing the Research Paper

Academic Center, University of Houston, Victoria

The Literature Review: A Few Tips on Conducting It

Writing Centre, University of Toronto

Writing Literature Reviews

Temple University Writing Center

The Literature Review Matrix (Synthesis Matrix)

Keep in mind that a literature review is not just a summary of studies, but rather a synthesis of information and research methods in those studies. You must make clear how the studies relate to one another and to your thesis or research question and to your purpose. Synthesis requires comparing themes, methods, and conclusions among the authors. One way to keep track of it all is to create a research matrix or table. The resources below will help you get a start.

Using a Matrix to Organize Research Saint Mary's Twin Cities Writing Center

Writing a Literature Review and Using a Synthesis Matrix

North Carolina State Tutorial Services.. Ingram, Hussey, Tigani, Hemmelgarn, & Huneycutt, contributors

Synthesizing Multiple Sources

Indiana University

Create Your Own matrix in MS Word

This blank matrix is ready for you to use for your own research review.