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Research 101



Synthesizing is combining two or more elements to form a new whole. In your scholarly and academic work, the “elements” are the findings of the literature or information you gather and read while the “new whole” is the conclusion you draw from those findings.

Synthesizing is an extension of summarizing.  Instead of simply restating the important points from text, synthesizing involves combining ideas and allowing an evolving understanding of text. This is a skill in critical thinking and can be improved with practice!

How to Use a Synthesis Matrix

While preparing to write an annotated bibliography, literature review, or research paper, you will accumulate multiple sources.

A synthesis matrix is a table that can be used to organize research, providing a visual representation and overlap of ideas found in literature by combining information into logical categories. This will help you identify relationships - or lack there of - between or among your sources!

The easiest way to set up a matrix for your research in in Excel or Google Sheets - a grid is essential.

How to use a Synthesis Matrix:

  • Write source citations vertically in the far left column.
  • Write topic categories along the top row (horizontally)
  • As you read though your sources, make notes in the appropriate spaces. Include main ideas, interesting facts, and quotes.

Review the table to recognize matching, similar or overlapping concepts, dissonance of ideas, and gaps in knowledge, within your sources.

An example of a simple matrix: