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Evidence or Knowledge Synthesis

What Is a Synthesis?

Evidence synthesis [...] is a way of combining information from multiple studies that have investigated the same thing, to come to an overall understanding of what they found.—Evidence Synthesis - What is it and why do we need it?,
‘Evidence synthesis’ refers to the process of bringing together information from a range of sources and disciplines to inform debates and decisions on specific issues.—Evidence synthesis, The Royal Society
[Knowledge synthesis is] the contextualization and integration of research findings of individual research studies within the larger body of knowledge on the topic. A synthesis must be reproducible and transparent in its methods, using quantitative and/or qualitative methods.—A Guide to Knowledge Synthesis, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

How does a knowledge or evidence synthesis differ from a traditional or narrative review prepared for a capstone event like a dissertation or a thesis?

  • Intentional rigor and reproducibility of methodology, emphasizing transparency
  • Efforts to comprehensively compile both published and "grey" materials on a topic
  • Focus on evaluating literature by criteria established a priori, rather than producing a narrative or supporting a particular theoretical perspective.

How Your Subject Librarian Can Help

Contact your subject librarian to arrange for synthesis support. If you are a Maine resident unaffiliated with UMaine, we may be able to refer you to another library for in-depth synthesis support. However, many scholarly literature databases, here and at other libraries, are limited to use by students and/or employees of the parent institution.

Synthesis Services

I want to... Your librarian can...
  • Create a synthesis assignment for my class
  • Consult with you on the design of the assignment
  • Present 1 or more instruction sessions to your class to prepare students for the assignment
  • Consult with your students as they work on the assignment
  • Know if someone else already published a similar synthesis
  • Formulate the research question for my synthesis
  • Develop or improve my search strategy for a database
  • "Translate" my search strategy to search more than one database
  • Learn about online tools to help me organize the results of my literature search
  • Consult with you to focus & refine your research question
  • Review your search strategy
  • Introduce you to appropriate databases & their search syntax
  • Introduce you to resources covering "grey literature" (preprints, reports, dissertations & theses, conference proceedings, clinical trials, government documents, etc.)
  • Consult with you to offer recommendations, troubleshoot, & review best practices for using citation managers

Sometimes it is possible for the subject librarian to become part of your research team and do further work. If you want to pursue this option, speak to your subject librarian.

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