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Systematic Searching Support

Synthesizing the Literature

Regardless of type of review conducted, synthesis is necessary in order to derive meaning. It involves summarizing themes, ideas, or results from two or more sources that are relevant to the review question(s). If possible, create evidence tables or other visual information to summarize the literature. Not only does this make it easier to compare, contrast, and generate conclusions, but it also makes it easier for the reader to process.

Determining the strength of the body of evidence is usually an important component of synthesis in many health sciences reviews. Factors to consider include the quantity of studies relevant to the topic, the quality of each study, the consistency of the findings. In terms of whether the evidence is strong enough to alter practice, safety/risk need to be evaluated.

Example Evidence Table

An evidence table can be created easily by including relevant variables and summarizing data. Below is a simple table based on fictitious data.

Reference Population, Sample, and Setting Study Design Independent Variable Outcomes and Results Limitations
Taylor, 2012

Adults aged 65+ at risk for falls.

50 patients attending a primary care clinic in Midwest

Quasi Experimental Education provided by nurse practitioner about fall prevention Frequency of falls over 6 month period reduced by 20% High risk of bias due to self report of falls
Jensen, 2018

adults aged 65 + with history of falls

30 residents in an assisted living facility in the Oregon

Randomized controlled trial Yoga sessions 2x/week for 45 mins frequency of falls reduced by 30% over 3 month period Small sample size

Resources for Synthesis