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  • Writer's pictureMaria Stefanidi

The Synthesis Matrix: Your Solution to a Seemingly Impossible Task

One of the most daunting tasks of a dissertation can be the synthesis of all the existing literature regarding your research question.

You may feel like you're reading the same things over and over again or that you're not making any progress.

But there is a tool you can use to help you make sense of all the information you need to synthesize, organize your arguments, and make the synthesis process much simpler: The Synthesis Matrix!

Let me explain…

What is a Synthesis Matrix?

A synthesis matrix is a table that allows you to organize your literature by themes and arguments. It helps you keep track of what you've read, identify gaps in the research, and see relationships between different authors and ideas.

How can a synthesis matrix help you?

One of the challenges of writing a dissertation is synthesizing all of your research into one cohesive document.

A synthesis matrix can help you overcome this challenge by allowing you to see the relationships between the different concepts that have emerged from the existing literature.

So, by creating a synthesis matrix, you can clearly see how different ideas relate to one another. This can be helpful when you're trying to identify patterns and themes in your research.

By arranging your sources by theme or variable, you can see how they relate to each other and start thinking about how you will weave them together to create an argument.

Additionally, having all your information organized in one place saves you time when writing your dissertation because you don't have to go back and forth between different sources.

Furthermore, a synthesis matrix can help you make connections that you might not have otherwise made. By seeing the relationships between different concepts, you may be able to identify new connections that could potentially lead to new insights about your research question. So, give the synthesis matrix a try if you're struggling with synthesizing your literature review!

How does the synthesis matrix work?

The Synthesis Matrix is a worksheet that helps you organize and make sense of all the information you need to include in your literature review synthesis.

There are different ways to use a synthesis matrix.

You can use a word document, an excel spreadsheet, index cards on a wall or your desk, a print-out pdf form… It's really up to you!

But I want to give you eight tips to get the most out of this tool!

  1. Write down or type your research question(s) in big letters.

  2. Identify the main points, themes or topics/subtopics that you want to include in your synthesis matrix and are related to your research question(s)

  3. Create a list of them

  4. Create a column for each main point, theme or topic/subtopic

  5. On each row, you'll write the details of each source.

  6. You'll start filling in the cells with specific information related to each topic and subtopic.

  7. As you fill in the cells, try to identify relationships between different pieces of information and see the connections between various sources.

  8. Once you have filled in all of the cells, take some time to reflect on the relationships you identified and what they mean for your research.

You can start writing your literature review synthesis by drawing on the information from the most relevant sources to the main points or themes you want to cover.

What's great about the Synthesis Matrix is that it gives you value and the freedom to design it as you think it will best help you in your dissertation.


I hope you enjoyed this month's blog post! If you're interested in receiving various forms of a Synthesis Matrix, email me at with the words "Synthesis Matrix", and I will gladly send them to you. #yourdissertationcoach #dissertationcoach #dissertation #literaturereview #undergrad #postgrad #phdstudent #dissertationtips #dissertationjourney #thesis

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