Determine what general conclusions you can report about a subtopic, given the relationships you inferred from the group of articles within each subtopic.

Week 6: Synthesizing the Literature

Last week you worked on critically analyzing research related to your topic. Although you only had to analyze two research articles, you should always critically analyze all scholarly sources you read. Once you have analyzed each source, you can start synthesizing the information you have collected. In other words, the next step is to integrate or combine your resources and determine what conclusions can be drawn from the articles as a group. In terms of preparing to write a dissertation, the conclusions should lead the reader to why your study should be conducted as the next logical step in adding to the literature on the topic area.

The good news is that you are already experienced in synthesizing information. You infer relationships among sources probably on a daily basis, including between a story you heard on the news and something you read in a newspaper. Similarly, to synthesize the literature you have collected, you will look to find relationships between your scholarly sources. The first step is understanding what the sources say. The assignments in Week 2 and Week 3 offered you tools to help you digest the material covered in each scholarly source. The second step is critically analyzing the sources. You practiced this in Week 5 and should continue to use these skills to analyze all of your scholarly sources. The next step is going beyond your critique to determine the relationship among your sources. For example, you might find in your readings that certain themes emerged, such as Theme A, B, and C. You might group information from your articles by theme and then compare and contrast. Another scenario could be that your critical analysis revealed that there was one seminal study done that all other researchers expanded upon. Based on whatever patterns you find, what can you infer beyond what the sources say? What do you believe the patterns suggest? May the patterns suggest a direction for your research efforts?

It is also important to continue to point out that although the writing process in this course is somewhat linear; the actually writing process is more cyclical or iterative. As you are writing, you might find you need additional resources. This means going back to searching the literature, analyzing the information, and integrating the information into your work. Similarly, you should work to stay current with research in your field, which may also lead you to incorporating additional sources.

For this assignment, you will continue to add to your collection of resources by finding and reading an additional 3 to 5 scholarly sources. Hopefully you have been using the summary tables you created in Week 2 and/or the concept map you created in Week 3. Using these tools will help you to synthesize your group of articles by helping you visualize potential themes, patterns, and possible areas for further study in your readings.

For your outline in Week 4, you provided details regarding the peer-reviewed sources under each heading and began making connections between the findings of the different studies. Hopefully your table and/or concept map from earlier efforts in the course has helped you to start seeing relationships between pieces of information in your scholarly sources. You should have also been noting the conceptual and/or theoretical frameworks used in each study.

To prepare this week’s paper, follow the steps below:

1.) Review the outline you created in Week 4 in preparation for this week’s written assignment. Ensure you have incorporated any faculty feedback and that your topics (and subtopics) are in a logical order. You will elaborate based on your outline so that this now becomes a written paper that is a synthesis of these articles for this assignment.

2.) Include the 3 additional scholarly sources you found this week.

3.) You will now expand your written synthesis and aggregation of the literature by discussing the relationships between all of your resources for a minimum of 13 scholarly sources (including the 3 to 5 additional sources you found this week). Specifically,

a.) For each (sub)topic you identified in your outline, determine what the articles in that group have in common. For example, did authors use similar frameworks, materials, or participants? Are any studies an extension of another?

b.) Conversely, for each (sub)topic you identified in your outline, determine how the articles in that group differ. If there are contradictory findings, you may (or may not) be able to identify methodological differences that could account for the contradiction (e.g., differences in measurements or participant demographics).

4.) Determine what general conclusions you can report about a subtopic, given the relationships you inferred from the group of articles within each subtopic.