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GC-621/GC-691 Capstone Courses

Writing a Lit Review

Writing a Literature Review

Unless you have a reason to present the literature chronologically (to show development over time, perhaps), the preferred method for organizing your literature is thematically. 

Step 1: Identify your themes.

Step 2: Identify the articles that address those themes

Step 3: Identify the similarities and differences among the articles within the themes

A Literature Synthesis Matrix will be especially helpful in this process.


Click on the title to go to the e-book.

Tools to help you Organize your Lit Review

Tools to Help you Organize your Literature Review

Literature Review Matrix

This type of matrix will help you see the content of all of your articles at a glance. Each row represents an article, and each column and element of the articles. Typical columns can include things like 

  • Research method
  • Sample size
  • Theoretical framework
  • Outcomes

However, the exact columns you chose depend on the elements of each study you want to discuss in your paper. You get to decide!

Here are couple of examples to give you a better idea.

Literature Synthesis Matrix

In essence a synthesis matrix is a way to organize your literature by theme, which is generally the way writers organize their whole literature reviews. The real benefit is that it helps you identify the articles that talk about the same themes so that you can write about them together in your literature review.

North Carolina State has a very nice description and example of the process. 

This YouTube video also explains the process.



Here is a template you can use (this one is in Word instead of PPT).

Writing Tutor

Want help with your writing?

The IHP Writing Tutor can help you write your literature review. Help is provided via e-mail. Contact the writing tutor at