Read and summarize

Now it's time to read and evaluate each of the articles you found in your research. 

If you find an article isn't relevant or helpful, you can exclude it from your review. However, make sure that you don't exclude an article just because its findings don't match with other articles. Remember that part of a literature review is to point out inconsistencies! 

Take notes as you read! 

Make note of common themes you encounter in your readings. (These themes might become sub-headings in your literature review.) You might even want to create an annotated bibliography. You won't turn this in, but it will serve as a useful summary for you when you go to write the actual review. 


A useful tool for writing literature reviews is to create a synthesis matrix. Each row represents a common theme or point; each column represents an article you read. 

The table below is a sample matrix created by Becky Menendez, who adapted it from North Carolina State University.

Screenshot of a synthesis matrix, accessible version below

Things to note:

  • The authors' names are listed across the top row
  • The subtopics are listed across the left-most column
  • Include some quotations, but for the most part, paraphrase or summarize
  • Include page numbers for direct quotations in case you need to refer back to them
  Cornelson Stewart Bruley Scott
Alteration of women's roles because of WWII
  • Women accredited the WASP program for opening new doors, challenging stereotypes, and proving that women were as capable as men (p. 113)
  • Women could compete with men as equals in the sky because of their exemplary performance (p. 116)
  • WASP created opportunities for women that had never previously existed (p. 112)
  • Women's success at flying aircrafts "marked a pivotal step towards breaking the existing gender barrier" (p. 112)
  • WAAC (Women's Army Auxiliary Corp) was 1st chance for women to serve in army, given full army status in 1943 as WAC (p. 28)
  • Needs of the war were so great that women's traditional social roles were ignored (p. 30)
  • Military women paid well for the time period and given benefits if they became pregnant (p. 32)
  • The 1940's brought more opportunities to women than ever before (p. 26)
  • Women given equal opportunities (p. 223)
  • Women joined workforce as a break from the ordinary to help the war (p. 220)
  • Unconscious decision to cross into male-dominated roles (p. 221)
  • Seized these new opportunities to bring about change (p. 230)
  • Women born in the 1920's found new doors open to them where they once would have encountered brick walls (p. 526)
  • Even women not directly involved in the war were changing mentally by being challenged to expand their horizons because of the changing world around them (p. 562)
  • War also brought intellectual expansion to many people (p. 557)
Hardships and oppositions women faced
  • "From the outset male pilots resented women's presence in a traditionally male military setting" (p. 1113-4)
  • "The WASP were routinely assigned inferior planes that were later found to have been improperly maintained" (p. 114)
  • discrimination against WASP at every level of military service, women were only paid 2/3 of what men were for doing identical tasks
  • "In the belief that women were emotionally and physically fragile, the military questioned women's capabilities to fly an aircraft" (p. 114-5), regardless of their training or aptitude
  • WASP's not granted veteran status until 1979 (p. 115)
  • Women in the military given extensive physical and mental tests, but still discriminated against, ridiculed, and considered inferior to men (p. 29)
  • Women given unskilled labor positions by government because only seen as temporary workers, therefore no reason to train them (p. 221-2)
  • Women given less significant work and viewed as less intelligent and physically able (p. 224)
  • "The Church-Bliss diary reveals how dilution arrangements…ensured that women working in male preserves were prevented from achieving any sort of equality" (p. 230)
  • more traditionally male jobs resisted the integration of women workers, while other industries were less resistant...but in most all cases women were considered temporary workers (p. 221)
  • Equal pay rarely given to women, even though women did the same work (p. 221)
  • Women occasionally found their way to positions of importance, but were always treated as inferior (p. 226-8)
  • After the war, women were the first to be let go because of their temporary status (p. 230)
  • Women in the workforce also faced discrimination from labor unions (p. 226)
Opposition: WWII did NOT effect women  
  • Women put in untraditional roles during/because of the war, but back to previous subservient roles after the war (p. 35)
  • Women were not affected because they still remained in subordinate positions after the war (p. 217)

Tips for writing about the literature

  • Synthesize, don't summarize. Here's an excellent example of synthesis provided by NC State University; it's essentially a text summary of the chart in the previous section. The overall topic is women in World War II.

    While the articles used in this research agree that women made many advances during the Word War II period, it is crucial to realize that not all these changes were welcomed. In most cases women faced discrimination from just about everyone around them. Women in the workplace were often placed in positions of inferiority or treated as being less physically able to do the same work the men did. Many women were often not trained because they were viewed as temporary employees who were only there for the duration of the war (Bruley, 2003, pp. 221-222). Women were very rarely given equal pay as men, even though some of them did the same work. Women in the military faced not only mental abuse but also physical harm from their male counterparts. According to Cornelsen (2005), there were many instances where female aviators were injured or killed due to being made to fly ill-maintained aircrafts or aircrafts that had been sabotaged. (p.114)

  • Use quotes sparingly: Since the purpose of a literature review is to talk about many different articles, you won't be discussing any one article in great detail. NC State University suggests that there are a few cases where it's okay to use quotations:

    • If you want to emphasize a point
    • If there's no good way to paraphrase or rewrite the author's idea, other than to quote them
    • If the author has used or quoted certain terms which are not commonly known by the average person
  • Make sure not to misrepresent the author's ideas.

    Let's look at an example. Here's a direct quote from an article: natives constitute an ever-growing group of children, adolescents, and nowadays young adults (i.e., those born after 1984; the official beginning of this generation) who have been immersed in digital technologies all their lives. The mere fact that they have been exposed to these digital technologies has...endowed this growing group with specific and even unique characteristics that make its members completely different from those growing up in previous generations (Kirschner & De Bruyckerec, 2017, p. 136).

    This quote might lead you to believe that Kirschner & De Bruyckerec believe in the concept of digital natives. However, in this case, they are describing the thoughts of another author (Marc Prensky). In fact, Kirschner & De Bruyckerec's article argues that the concept of digital natives is a myth - in fact, it's right in the title of their article:

    Kirschner, P. A., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 135-142.

    As the person selecting the quotation, I could have been clearer about whose ideas I was expressing. Make sure you understand the author's intent when you're writing about their work.