A literature review examines a large swath of information published on a given topic for a specific reason. Those reasons could be to:
At first glance a literature review may seem like a glorified summary; however, literature reviews are the avenues by which information on a given topic is synthesized. While effectively summarizing information, literature reviews examine research through a big picture lens.
Is a literature different from a traditional research paper?
Most definitely! Academic research papers are intended to introduce new arguments. Literature reviews, on the other hand, summarize and synthesize existing arguments and ideas but don't offer new contributions to the field. Literature reviews tackle the questions: What do we know about a given topic? Are there any gaps in the known research or our understanding?
As you read, you'll encounter various ideas, disagreements, methods, and perspectives which can be hard to organize in a meaningful way.
A synthesis matrix helps you record the main points of each source and document how sources relate to each other.