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Literature Reviews

General information on how to organize and write a literature review.

Track Your Sources


RefWorks is an online research management, writing and collaboration tool -- is designed to help researchers easily gather, manage, store and share all types of information, as well as generate citations and bibliographies.

If you need to manage information for any reason -- whether it be for writing, research or collaboration -- RefWorks is the perfect tool. Use the tutorials and information resources on this site to work smarter with RefWorks!


"Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources."

Using a Synthesis Matrix

As you examine your first source, you will work horizontally in the row belonging to that source, recording as much information as possible about each significant idea presented in the work. Follow a similar pattern for your following sources. In your new sources, you will also probably find new main ideas that you need to add to your list at the top. (You can recreate this grid in a spreadsheet for more room).


Concept A

Concept B

Concept C

Concept D

Author 1





Author 2





Author 3





Author 4





Author 5






Analyze Your Findings

Notice patterns of information. You may find that your sources discuss very similar material or deal with completely different aspects of your topic. These patterns can be useful in creating a thesis statement that can guide your writing and keep you focused as you begin your literature review.


The goal of your literature review is to synthesize the different subtopics/concepts you identified in the matrix in order to come to a greater understanding of the knowledge on your research topic. Your completed literature review should not simply summarize the information found in each individual source, but rather, map the scholarly conversation up to that point (note where the knowledge overlaps, how it differs and where the research falls short) in order to determine possible paths for new inquiry.