A literature review is NOT an academic research paper, an annotated bibliography, or a report on original research.
Unlike an academic research paper, the main focus of a literature review is not to develop a new argument. A literature review is an overview of a topic that shows the reader what research has been done on that subject. A literature review may build on an annotated bibliography, but it does more than just summarize each article; a literature review should compare and contrast the ideas each article contains, highlight interesting trends and inconsistencies within the research, and suggest future research that is needed on the topic.
The information for this page is provided from Nursing Resources Research Guide of Jessup Library at Piedmont Virginia Community College with permission.
"Synthesizing the literature" means comparing themes, methods, findings, and inconsistencies within the articles you found, so that you can show how the articles relate to each other.
Synthesizing the information that you find in multiple articles can be difficult. It is important to analyze and organize the different perspectives, ideas, and methods that you encounter in your reading.
Using a synthesis matrix may help you keep track of the main ideas of each document. A synthesis matrix is a chart that you use to organize and compare your sources.
As you synthesize your research, look for these things:
Download a Sample Synthesis Matrix to use as you prepare to write your literature review:
What does a literature review look like?
Not every literature review is the same; some literature reviews include very detailed methodologies, or sections defining terms or concepts relevant to the topic, or in-depth background history, or a paragraph discussing the challenges involved with reviewing the literature.
But most literature reviews will incorporate these key components:
"Nurse turnover: A literature review" by Laureen J. Hayes et al. (2006) looks at research on the nurse turnover problem.
In this excerpt from the article, you can see how the writers compare the research of several authors on variables that influence nurse turnover rates.
Hayes, L.J. et al. (2006). Nurse turnover: A literature review. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 43(2006). pp. 237–263.
Also in this article, see Appendix A on page 247 for an example of a synthesis matrix used to analyze and compare the literature on nurse turnover issues.
Short, R. (2008). Assessing Pain...Pat Schofield. Nursing Older People, 20(4), 16-18 3p.