A useful way to separate analysis from synthesis is to compare the second and third major assignments of WRIT 250. While the second major assignment, the Annotated Bibliography, asks you to review and analyze each source individually, the third major assignment, the Literature Review, asks you to synthesize sources to offer a picture of the current state of the research on your topic. In other words, you must examine ALL of your sources together rather than analyzing them individually.
Once you have a fundamental understanding of each source you located for the Annotated Bibliography, you should begin seeing where these sources overlap or differ. In fact, you should have begun to allude to these similarities and differences in the introduction to your Annotated Bibliography. For the Literature Review, you will organize your paragraphs around trends and/or gaps in the sources collectively—rather than organizing them around the individual sources. Using the synthesis matrix as described on the next page will help you to locate trends and gaps with your sources.
Applying Research Skills
If you refer to the examples given when we defined the terms “analysis” and “synthesis” at the beginning of this unit, you should now have a good understanding of what the Literature Review is asking you to accomplish.
Rather than looking at and analyzing just one review from a website on a product you are thinking about purchasing, you would most likely look at multiple reviews to see where and how they compare. Do they highlight similar issues with the product? Do they conflict? Do they highlight similar or different issues with the product? Basically, you must synthesize the reviews to determine the value and quality of the product you are thinking of buying.
For the Literature Review, you cannot judge the state of the research on your topic by reviewing and analyzing only one academic source. Instead, you must review multiple credible sources to see where they overlap and differ. What common ideas and conclusions are discussed? Do the articles offer different or conflicting results or interpretations? Your task is to review these sources and determine the current state of the research on your topic. You must first understand the conversation before you can add to it.