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Academic Research: Literature Synthesis

Academic Research
  Literature Synthesis

Literature synthesis is a process of analyzing various material (textual, statistical, graphical, programming, and other) to understand the studied phenomenon by defining the differences, similarities, relationships, and new ideas, which emerge after interpreting published information, statements, arguments. 

Analysis of published literature is a process of asking questions about the information, meaning, goal, and implication of published research. Questions based on -  what, why, when, where, who - provide an insight for analysis of published literature, evaluation, and interpretation. 

Four synthesis types are defined from integrative literature reviews

  • Research agenda - identified from the critical analysis through the provocative question or proposition that is used for the next studies
  • Conceptual constructs - provides an analysis of the classification of constructs to classify previous research, which provided the direction for new theories
  • Alternative models or conceptual frameworks - new thinking about the published topics. Alternative models and conceptions are proposed deriving from critical analysis and synthesis
  • Metatheory - integration, and synthesis of literature review provides the foundation for further development of the metatheory across the theoretical domains

Adapted from Torraco, R. J. (2005). Writing integrative literature reviews: Guidelines and examples. Human resource development review4(3), 356-367.

Literature Annotation 


  • Passive - light process (e.g., underlining and highlighting)
  • Active - thought-process (e.g., questions, observation, summary, and other
  • SIFT annotation - symbols, imagery, figurative language, tone, theme)


  • What are the question and answer?
  • What are the main ideas and findings in the article?
  • What are the unique methods and techniques?
  • What are the patterns in the published literature?
  • Is there a collaborative pattern in published research? 
  • How this article relevant to the study?
  • What are the important concepts?
  • Individual interpretation 
  Literature Critical Appraisal and Synthesis

Critically Appraised Topic

Critically Appraised Topic (CAT) - is a “summary of a search and critical appraisal of the literature related to a focused clinical question, which should be kept in an easily accessible place so that it can be used to help make clinical decisions”

Dawes, M. (2005). Critically appraised topics and evidence-based medicine journals. Singapore Medical Journal, 46(9), 442.

"5S" Pyramid of Evidence Resources

Graph by Dr. Tmanova. 

Based on the "5S" Pyramid of Evidence Resources from the Indiana University School of Medicine Libraries, the Dartmouth /Yale EBM Page Generator and Haynes RB, ACP J Club 2006;145(3):A8.

  Scientific Knowledge

What is a Scientific Knowledge?

  • Description - observational analysis of the phenomenon by describing its characteristics 
  • Analysis - evaluating the studies phenomenon to conclude by testing assumptions through the analytical processes by evaluating studies characteristics 
  • Correlation - analysis of relationships among studied phenomena
  • Comparison - analysis of the differences and similarities 
  • Prediction - predictive forecast on emerging phenomenon based on information and knowledge
  • Control/validation - correlation, cause-effect
  • Categorization - typology, specification 
  • Explanation - study hypothesis, research questions - what, when, why, how, where, who

Selected key concept on scientific information cycle and management at Information Management guide 
! Note: additional resources on the information management and knowledge management are at the designing phase. 

  Literature Synthesis, Critical Appraisal, and EBM tools

Citation management, annotation, and synthesis 

Tools useful for information and citation management, annotation, and synthesis: 

  • MS Excel
  • MS Word
  • MS OneNote
  • EndNote 
  • LaTeX
  Selected Publication


  • Torraco, R. J. (2016). Writing integrative reviews of the literature: Methods and purposes. International Journal of Adult Vocational Education and Technology (IJAVET)7(3), 62-70.
  • Klopper, R., Lubbe, S., & Rugbeer, H. (2007). The matrix method of literature review. Alternation14(1), 262-276.
    For more books and journals, browse DML Book Catalog and DML A-Z Journal Catalog, and DML Database Catalog. Schedule Consultation on finding associated sources. 


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