Reviewing the literature
Synthesising the literature
'To make a synthesis of; to put together or combine into a complex whole; to make up by combination of parts or elements' (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
Synthesising literature involves pulling together all of the literature that you want to use to write your literature review or report, or to build a persuasive argument. You will therefore need to:
Compare - 'To mark or point out the similarities and differences of (two or more things); to bring or place together (actually or mentally) for the purpose of noting the similarities and differences' (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
Combine - 'To couple or join two or more things together' (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
Contrast - 'To set in opposition (two objects of like nature, or one with, rarely to, another) in order to show strikingly their different qualities or characteristics, and compare their superiorities or defects' (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
It is neither sufficient nor practical to list each piece of literature in turn and interpret or discuss its findings and meaning. It is imperative that the literature is synthesised. However, it's important to evaluate each piece of literature, and not to accept the authors' claims at face value, before synthesising it with other literature. The materials here will help you to compare, combine and contrast the literature you source in order to produce a synthesised literature review.
Authors: Dr Olivia Billingham & Dr Liz Falconer, University of the West of England. Dr Steve Gough, University of Bath