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Nursing and Allied Health: Building a Summary Table or Synthesis Matrix

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Building a Summary Table or Synthesis Matrix


What a Summary Table or Synthesis Matrix looks like



Use the "Literature Review Matrix Template" as a guideline to help you sort through your thoughts, note important points and think through the similarities and differences: 

You are organizing the review by ideas and not by sources.  The literature review is not just a summary of the already published works.  Your synthesis should show how various articles are linked. 

Synthesis Matrix or Summary  [Table Examples]


Some students prefer to place the names of the authors across the top of the chart. Use what works best for you and your instructor or advisor.


What is a summary table or synthesis matrix?


A summary table is also called a synthesis matrix.  The table helps you organize and compare information for your systematic review, scholarly report, dissertation or thesis

Synthesis Matrix.

A summary table is also called a synthesis matrix. A summary table helps you record the main points of each source and document how sources relate to each other. After summarizing and evaluating your sources, arrange them in a matrix to help you see how they relate to each other, and apply to each of your themes or variables.

Faculty who typically guide students find it challenging to help students learn how to synthesize material (Blondy, Blakesless, Scheffer, Rubenfeld, Cronin, & Luster-Turner, 2016; Kearney, 2015).  Writers  can easily summarize material but seem to struggle to adequately synthesize knowledge about their topic and express that in their writing. So, whether you are writing a student papers, dissertations, or scholarly report it is necessary to learn a few tips and tricks to organize your ideas.

Building a summary table is not writing a summary report:


Building a summary table and developing solid synthesis skills is important for nurses, nurse practitioners, and allied health researchers.  Quality evidence-based practice initiatives and nursing care and medicine are based on understanding and evaluating the resources and research available, identifying gaps, and building a strong foundation for future work.

Good synthesis is about putting the data gathered, references read, and literature analyzed together in a new way that shows connections and relationships. (Shellenbarger, 2016). The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines synthesis as something that is made by combining different things or the composition or combination of parts or elements so as to form a whole (Synthesis, n.d.).  

In other words, building a summary table or synthesis matrix  involves taking information from a variety of sources, evaluating that information and forming new ideas or insights in an original way.  This can be a new and potentially challenging experience for students and researchers who are used to just repeating what is already in the literature.


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