Research Planning Matrix
The first example is a synthesis matrix (or table) organized by the key studies on your specific topic. Identify six to twelve studies that are closely related to the focus of your study and that you will use as the foundation for your proposed research. In the first column along the vertical axis of the table, list the author and date of publication for each study. Then create columns to identify the purpose or research questions the authors posed. The method used in the study. Characteristics of the sample. The major findings of the study. The main ideas or themes distilled from the findings. How the findings confirm those of other studies (similarities). How the findings differ from other studies or offer information not found in other sources
The headings you use in your synthesis matrix may vary depending on the nature of your study and the argument you wish to make. For example, if you are conducting a qualitative study and are not certain what theory or theories your findings may support, you might consider adding a column for explanatory theories and constructs to help you think about the conceptual frameworks that other researchers have found useful. In some quantitative studies, you may want a column for instruments to justify the use of particular instruments in your own study. Below is a matrix that may be useful in reviewing the methods and limitations of quantitative studies.
As you will learn in the next blog, effective literature reviews are often organized by themes. A third type of a synthesis matrix organizes the key studies by themes. Once you have identified the major themes, you may wish to organize your studies as shown in the table below to conceptualize how the findings of each of your sources relate to the major themes that you have identified in the literature and to help you synthesize this information in your review of literature.