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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?, Cochrane.org
‘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 any type of 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
  • Learn about online tools to help me manage a synthesis project
  • Conduct a brief literature search and deliver results
  • Give you an overview of different types of syntheses
  • Consult with you to focus & refine your research question
  • Consult with you to select an appropriate type of synthesis
  • 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 & synthesis project management tools
  • Receive results from a professionally conducted literature search
  • Write a protocol for my synthesis
  • Meet international reporting standards for protocols, meta-analyses, & systematic reviews

Meet with you to discuss the scope of your project, and then determine, with guidance from their supervisor, if they can:

  • Contribute search strategy documentation to your protocol or manuscript
  • Conduct a comprehensive search and deliver results
  • Update literature searches just before you submit a final report or a manuscript for publication
  • Create a PRISMA flowchart for your manuscript
  • Participate in your synthesis team meetings

5729 Fogler Library · University of Maine · Orono, ME 04469-5729 ; (207) 581-1673

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