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How to Write a Literature Review - A Self-Guided Tutorial


SynthesizeThis is the point where you sort articles by themes or categories in preparation for writing your lit review. You may find a synthesis matrix, like this one, or in the box below, helpful in understanding how this works.

You can sort the literature in various ways, for example:



light bulb image  by themes or concepts

clock image  historically or chronologically (tracing a research question across time),or

diverging arrows image  by methodology.

Synthesis Vizualization

Four Examples of Student Writing

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.

Visualizing synthesis

Long description of "Four Examples of Student Writing" for web accessibility

Red X markStudent A uses quotes from only ONE source and fails to use her own voice to make any arguments


Red XStudent B cherry picks quotes from THREE sources and uses block quotes instead of making his own point


Red XStudent 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

Green checkmarkStudent 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

Synthesis Matrix Example


















From Jennifer Lim

Synthesis Templates

Synthesis grids are organizational tools used to record the main concepts of your sources and can help you make connections about how your sources relate to one another.