Literature Review Basics

  • What is a Literature Review?
  • Synthesizing Research
  • Using Research & Synthesis Tables
  • Additional Resources

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About the Research and Synthesis Tables

Research Tables and Synthesis Tables are useful tools for organizing and analyzing your research as you assemble your literature review. They represent two different parts of the review process: assembling relevant information and synthesizing it. Use a Research table to compile the main info you need about the items you find in your research -- it's a great thing to have on hand as you take notes on what you read! Then, once you've assembled your research, use the Synthesis table to start charting the similarities/differences and major themes among your collected items.

We've included an Excel file with templates for you to use below; the examples pictured on this page are snapshots from that file.

  • Research and Synthesis Table Templates This Excel workbook includes simple templates for creating research tables and synthesis tables. Feel free to download and use!

Using the Research Table

Image of Model Research Excel Table

This is an example of a  research table,  in which you provide a basic description of the most important features of the studies, articles, and other items you discover in your research. The table identifies each item according to its author/date of publication, its purpose or thesis, what type of work it is (systematic review, clinical trial, etc.), the level of evidence it represents (which tells you a lot about its impact on the field of study), and its major findings. Your job, when you assemble this information, is to develop a snapshot of what the research shows about the topic of your research question and assess its value (both for the purpose of your work and for general knowledge in the field).

Think of your work on the research table as the foundational step for your analysis of the literature, in which you assemble the information you'll be analyzing and lay the groundwork for thinking about what it means and how it can be used.

Using the Synthesis Table

Image of Model Synthesis Excel Table

This is an example of a  synthesis table  or  synthesis matrix , in which you organize and analyze your research by listing each source and indicating whether a given finding or result occurred in a particular study or article ( each row lists an individual source, and each finding has its own column, in which X = yes, blank = no). You can also add or alter the columns to look for shared study populations, sort by level of evidence or source type, etc. The key here is to use the table to provide a simple representation of what the research has found (or not found, as the case may be). Think of a synthesis table as a tool for making comparisons, identifying trends, and locating gaps in the literature.

How do I know which findings to use, or how many to include?  Your research question tells you which findings are of interest in your research, so work from your research question to decide what needs to go in each Finding header, and how many findings are necessary. The number is up to you; again, you can alter this table by adding or deleting columns to match what you're actually looking for in your analysis. You should also, of course, be guided by what's actually present in the material your research turns up!

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Building a Summary Table or Synthesis Matrix

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  • Writing a Literature Review and Using a Synthesis Matrix

What a Summary Table or Synthesis Matrix looks like

Use the "Literature Review Matrix Template" as a guideline to help you sort through your thoughts, note important points and think through the similarities and differences: 

You are organizing the review by ideas and not by sources .  The literature review is not just a summary of the already published works.  Your synthesis should show how various articles are linked. 

literature synthesis table

A summary table is also called a synthesis matrix.  The table helps you organize and compare information for your systematic review, scholarly report, dissertation or thesis

Synthesis Matrix.

A summary table is also called a synthesis matrix . A summary table helps you record the main points of each source and document how sources relate to each other. After summarizing and evaluating your sources, arrange them in a matrix to help you see how they relate to each other, and apply to each of your themes or variables.

Faculty who typically guide students find it challenging to help students learn how to synthesize material (Blondy, Blakesless, Scheffer, Rubenfeld, Cronin, & Luster-Turner, 2016; Kearney, 2015) .  Writers  can easily summarize material but seem to struggle to adequately synthesize knowledge about their topic and express that in their writing. So, whether you are writing a student papers, dissertations, or scholarly report it is necessary to learn a few tips and tricks to organize your ideas.

Building a summary table and developing solid synthesis skills is important for nurses, nurse practitioners, and allied health researchers.  Quality evidence-based practice initiatives and nursing care and medicine are based on understanding and evaluating the resources and research available, identifying gaps, and building a strong foundation for future work.

Good synthesis is about putting the data gathered, references read, and literature analyzed together in a new way that shows connections and relationships. ( Shellenbarger, 2016 ). The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines synthesis as something that is made by combining different things or the composition or combination of parts or elements so as to form a whole (Synthesis, n.d.).  

In other words, building a summary table or synthesis matrix  involves taking information from a variety of sources, evaluating that information and forming new ideas or insights in an original way.  This can be a new and potentially challenging experience for students and researchers who are used to just repeating what is already in the literature.

literature synthesis table

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Get Organized

  • Lit Review Prep Use this template to help you evaluate your sources, create article summaries for an annotated bibliography, and a synthesis matrix for your lit review outline.

Synthesize your Information

Synthesize: combine separate elements to form a whole.

Synthesis Matrix

A synthesis matrix helps you record the main points of each source and document how sources relate to each other.

After summarizing and evaluating your sources, arrange them in a matrix or use a citation manager to help you see how they relate to each other and apply to each of your themes or variables.  

By arranging your sources by theme or variable, you can see how your sources relate to each other, and can start thinking about how you weave them together to create a narrative.

  • Step-by-Step Approach
  • Example Matrix from NSCU
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Nursing Literature and Other Types of Reviews

  • Literature and Other Types of Reviews
  • Starting Your Search
  • Constructing Your Search
  • Selecting Databases and Saving Your Search
  • Levels of Evidence
  • Creating a PRISMA Table
  • Literature Table and Synthesis
  • Other Resources

About Literature Tables and Writing a Synthesis

A literature table is a way to organize the articles you've selected for inclusion in your publication. There are many different types of literature tables-the main thing is to determine the important pieces that help draw out the comparisons and contrasts between the articles included in your review. The first few columns should include the basic info about the article (title, authors, journal), publication year, and the purpose of the paper.

While the table is a step to help you organize the articles you've selected for your research, the literature synthesis can take many forms and can have multiple parts. This largely depends on what type of review you've undertaken. Look back at the examples under Literature and Other Types of Reviews to see examples of different types of reviews.

  • Example of Literature Table

Examples of Literature Tables

literature synthesis table

Camak, D.J. (2015), Addressing the burden of stroke caregivers: a literature review. J Clin Nurs, 24: 2376-2382. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12884

literature synthesis table

Balcombe, L., Miller, C., & McGuiness, W. (2017). Approaches to the application and removal of compression therapy: A literature review. British Journal of Community Nursing , 22 , S6–S14.

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literature synthesis table

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How to Write a Literature Review

  • 6. Synthesize
  • Literature Reviews: A Recap
  • Reading Journal Articles
  • Does it Describe a Literature Review?
  • 1. Identify the Question
  • 2. Review Discipline Styles
  • Searching Article Databases
  • Finding Full-Text of an Article
  • Citation Chaining
  • When to Stop Searching
  • 4. Manage Your References
  • 5. Critically Analyze and Evaluate

Synthesis Visualization

Synthesis matrix example.

  • 7. Write a Literature Review


  • Synthesis Worksheet

About Synthesis

Approaches to synthesis.

You can sort the literature in various ways, for example:

light bulb image

How to Begin?

Read your sources carefully and find the main idea(s) of each source

Look for similarities in your sources – which sources are talking about the same main ideas? (for example, sources that discuss the historical background on your topic)

Use the worksheet (above) or synthesis matrix (below) to get organized

This work can be messy. Don't worry if you have to go through a few iterations of the worksheet or matrix as you work on your lit review!

Four Examples of Student Writing

In the four examples below, only ONE shows a good example of synthesis: the fourth column, or  Student D . For a web accessible version, click the link below the image.

Four Examples of Student Writing; Follow the "long description" infographic link for a web accessible description.

Long description of "Four Examples of Student Writing" for web accessibility

  • Download a copy of the "Four Examples of Student Writing" chart

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Click on the example to view the pdf.

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From Jennifer Lim

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Chapter 7: Synthesizing Sources

Learning objectives.

At the conclusion of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • synthesize key sources connecting them with the research question and topic area.

7.1 Overview of synthesizing

7.1.1 putting the pieces together.

Combining separate elements into a whole is the dictionary definition of synthesis.  It is a way to make connections among and between numerous and varied source materials.  A literature review is not an annotated bibliography, organized by title, author, or date of publication.  Rather, it is grouped by topic to create a whole view of the literature relevant to your research question.

literature synthesis table

Your synthesis must demonstrate a critical analysis of the papers you collected as well as your ability to integrate the results of your analysis into your own literature review.  Each paper collected should be critically evaluated and weighed for “adequacy, appropriateness, and thoroughness” ( Garrard, 2017 ) before inclusion in your own review.  Papers that do not meet this criteria likely should not be included in your literature review.

Begin the synthesis process by creating a grid, table, or an outline where you will summarize, using common themes you have identified and the sources you have found. The summary grid or outline will help you compare and contrast the themes so you can see the relationships among them as well as areas where you may need to do more searching. Whichever method you choose, this type of organization will help you to both understand the information you find and structure the writing of your review.  Remember, although “the means of summarizing can vary, the key at this point is to make sure you understand what you’ve found and how it relates to your topic and research question” ( Bennard et al., 2014 ).

Figure 7.2 shows an example of a simplified literature summary table. In this example, individual journal citations are listed in rows. Table column headings read: purpose, methods, and results.

As you read through the material you gather, look for common themes as they may provide the structure for your literature review.  And, remember, research is an iterative process: it is not unusual to go back and search information sources for more material.

At one extreme, if you are claiming, ‘There are no prior publications on this topic,’ it is more likely that you have not found them yet and may need to broaden your search.  At another extreme, writing a complete literature review can be difficult with a well-trod topic.  Do not cite it all; instead cite what is most relevant.  If that still leaves too much to include, be sure to reference influential sources…as well as high-quality work that clearly connects to the points you make. ( Klingner, Scanlon, & Pressley, 2005 ).

7.2 Creating a summary table

Literature reviews can be organized sequentially or by topic, theme, method, results, theory, or argument.  It’s important to develop categories that are meaningful and relevant to your research question.  Take detailed notes on each article and use a consistent format for capturing all the information each article provides.  These notes and the summary table can be done manually, using note cards.  However, given the amount of information you will be recording, an electronic file created in a word processing or spreadsheet is more manageable. Examples of fields you may want to capture in your notes include:

  • Authors’ names
  • Article title
  • Publication year
  • Main purpose of the article
  • Methodology or research design
  • Participants
  • Measurement
  • Conclusions

  Other fields that will be useful when you begin to synthesize the sum total of your research:

  • Specific details of the article or research that are especially relevant to your study
  • Key terms and definitions
  • Strengths or weaknesses in research design
  • Relationships to other studies
  • Possible gaps in the research or literature (for example, many research articles conclude with the statement “more research is needed in this area”)
  • Finally, note how closely each article relates to your topic.  You may want to rank these as high, medium, or low relevance.  For papers that you decide not to include, you may want to note your reasoning for exclusion, such as ‘small sample size’, ‘local case study,’ or ‘lacks evidence to support assertion.’

This short video demonstrates how a nursing researcher might create a summary table.

7.2.1 Creating a Summary Table

literature synthesis table

  Summary tables can be organized by author or by theme, for example:

For a summary table template, see

7.3 Creating a summary outline

An alternate way to organize your articles for synthesis it to create an outline. After you have collected the articles you intend to use (and have put aside the ones you won’t be using), it’s time to identify the conclusions that can be drawn from the articles as a group.

  Based on your review of the collected articles, group them by categories.  You may wish to further organize them by topic and then chronologically or alphabetically by author.  For each topic or subtopic you identified during your critical analysis of the paper, determine what those papers have in common.  Likewise, determine which ones in the group differ.  If there are contradictory findings, you may be able to identify methodological or theoretical differences that could account for the contradiction (for example, differences in population demographics).  Determine what general conclusions you can report about the topic or subtopic as the entire group of studies relate to it.  For example, you may have several studies that agree on outcome, such as ‘hands on learning is best for science in elementary school’ or that ‘continuing education is the best method for updating nursing certification.’ In that case, you may want to organize by methodology used in the studies rather than by outcome.

Organize your outline in a logical order and prepare to write the first draft of your literature review.  That order might be from broad to more specific, or it may be sequential or chronological, going from foundational literature to more current.  Remember, “an effective literature review need not denote the entire historical record, but rather establish the raison d’etre for the current study and in doing so cite that literature distinctly pertinent for theoretical, methodological, or empirical reasons.” ( Milardo, 2015, p. 22 ).

As you organize the summarized documents into a logical structure, you are also appraising and synthesizing complex information from multiple sources.  Your literature review is the result of your research that synthesizes new and old information and creates new knowledge.

7.4 Additional resources:

Literature Reviews: Using a Matrix to Organize Research / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Literature Review: Synthesizing Multiple Sources / Indiana University

Writing a Literature Review and Using a Synthesis Matrix / Florida International University

 Sample Literature Reviews Grid / Complied by Lindsay Roberts

Select three or four articles on a single topic of interest to you. Then enter them into an outline or table in the categories you feel are important to a research question. Try both the grid and the outline if you can to see which suits you better. The attached grid contains the fields suggested in the video .

Literature Review Table  

Test yourself.

  • Select two articles from your own summary table or outline and write a paragraph explaining how and why the sources relate to each other and your review of the literature.
  • In your literature review, under what topic or subtopic will you place the paragraph you just wrote?

Image attribution

Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students Copyright © by Linda Frederiksen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Literature Syntheis 101

How To Synthesise The Existing Research (With Examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewer: Eunice Rautenbach (DTech) | August 2023

One of the most common mistakes that students make when writing a literature review is that they err on the side of describing the existing literature rather than providing a critical synthesis of it. In this post, we’ll unpack what exactly synthesis means and show you how to craft a strong literature synthesis using practical examples.

This post is based on our popular online course, Literature Review Bootcamp . In the course, we walk you through the full process of developing a literature review, step by step. If it’s your first time writing a literature review, you definitely want to use this link to get 50% off the course (limited-time offer).

Overview: Literature Synthesis

  • What exactly does “synthesis” mean?
  • Aspect 1: Agreement
  • Aspect 2: Disagreement
  • Aspect 3: Key theories
  • Aspect 4: Contexts
  • Aspect 5: Methodologies
  • Bringing it all together

What does “synthesis” actually mean?

As a starting point, let’s quickly define what exactly we mean when we use the term “synthesis” within the context of a literature review.

Simply put, literature synthesis means going beyond just describing what everyone has said and found. Instead, synthesis is about bringing together all the information from various sources to present a cohesive assessment of the current state of knowledge in relation to your study’s research aims and questions .

Put another way, a good synthesis tells the reader exactly where the current research is “at” in terms of the topic you’re interested in – specifically, what’s known , what’s not , and where there’s a need for more research .

So, how do you go about doing this?

Well, there’s no “one right way” when it comes to literature synthesis, but we’ve found that it’s particularly useful to ask yourself five key questions when you’re working on your literature review. Having done so,  you can then address them more articulately within your actual write up. So, let’s take a look at each of these questions.

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1. Points Of Agreement

The first question that you need to ask yourself is: “Overall, what things seem to be agreed upon by the vast majority of the literature?”

For example, if your research aim is to identify which factors contribute toward job satisfaction, you’ll need to identify which factors are broadly agreed upon and “settled” within the literature. Naturally, there may at times be some lone contrarian that has a radical viewpoint , but, provided that the vast majority of researchers are in agreement, you can put these random outliers to the side. That is, of course, unless your research aims to explore a contrarian viewpoint and there’s a clear justification for doing so. 

Identifying what’s broadly agreed upon is an essential starting point for synthesising the literature, because you generally don’t want (or need) to reinvent the wheel or run down a road investigating something that is already well established . So, addressing this question first lays a foundation of “settled” knowledge.

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literature synthesis table

2. Points Of Disagreement

Related to the previous point, but on the other end of the spectrum, is the equally important question: “Where do the disagreements lie?” .

In other words, which things are not well agreed upon by current researchers? It’s important to clarify here that by disagreement, we don’t mean that researchers are (necessarily) fighting over it – just that there are relatively mixed findings within the empirical research , with no firm consensus amongst researchers.

This is a really important question to address as these “disagreements” will often set the stage for the research gap(s). In other words, they provide clues regarding potential opportunities for further research, which your study can then (hopefully) contribute toward filling. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a research gap, be sure to check out our explainer video covering exactly that .

literature synthesis table

3. Key Theories

The next question you need to ask yourself is: “Which key theories seem to be coming up repeatedly?” .

Within most research spaces, you’ll find that you keep running into a handful of key theories that are referred to over and over again. Apart from identifying these theories, you’ll also need to think about how they’re connected to each other. Specifically, you need to ask yourself:

  • Are they all covering the same ground or do they have different focal points  or underlying assumptions ?
  • Do some of them feed into each other and if so, is there an opportunity to integrate them into a more cohesive theory?
  • Do some of them pull in different directions ? If so, why might this be?
  • Do all of the theories define the key concepts and variables in the same way, or is there some disconnect? If so, what’s the impact of this ?

Simply put, you’ll need to pay careful attention to the key theories in your research area, as they will need to feature within your theoretical framework , which will form a critical component within your final literature review. This will set the foundation for your entire study, so it’s essential that you be critical in this area of your literature synthesis.

If this sounds a bit fluffy, don’t worry. We deep dive into the theoretical framework (as well as the conceptual framework) and look at practical examples in Literature Review Bootcamp . If you’d like to learn more, take advantage of our limited-time offer to get 60% off the standard price.

literature synthesis table

4. Contexts

The next question that you need to address in your literature synthesis is an important one, and that is: “Which contexts have (and have not) been covered by the existing research?” .

For example, sticking with our earlier hypothetical topic (factors that impact job satisfaction), you may find that most of the research has focused on white-collar , management-level staff within a primarily Western context, but little has been done on blue-collar workers in an Eastern context. Given the significant socio-cultural differences between these two groups, this is an important observation, as it could present a contextual research gap .

In practical terms, this means that you’ll need to carefully assess the context of each piece of literature that you’re engaging with, especially the empirical research (i.e., studies that have collected and analysed real-world data). Ideally, you should keep notes regarding the context of each study in some sort of catalogue or sheet, so that you can easily make sense of this before you start the writing phase. If you’d like, our free literature catalogue worksheet is a great tool for this task.

5. Methodological Approaches

Last but certainly not least, you need to ask yourself the question: “What types of research methodologies have (and haven’t) been used?”

For example, you might find that most studies have approached the topic using qualitative methods such as interviews and thematic analysis. Alternatively, you might find that most studies have used quantitative methods such as online surveys and statistical analysis.

But why does this matter?

Well, it can run in one of two potential directions . If you find that the vast majority of studies use a specific methodological approach, this could provide you with a firm foundation on which to base your own study’s methodology . In other words, you can use the methodologies of similar studies to inform (and justify) your own study’s research design .

On the other hand, you might argue that the lack of diverse methodological approaches presents a research gap , and therefore your study could contribute toward filling that gap by taking a different approach. For example, taking a qualitative approach to a research area that is typically approached quantitatively. Of course, if you’re going to go against the methodological grain, you’ll need to provide a strong justification for why your proposed approach makes sense. Nevertheless, it is something worth at least considering.

Regardless of which route you opt for, you need to pay careful attention to the methodologies used in the relevant studies and provide at least some discussion about this in your write-up. Again, it’s useful to keep track of this on some sort of spreadsheet or catalogue as you digest each article, so consider grabbing a copy of our free literature catalogue if you don’t have anything in place.

Looking at the methodologies of existing, similar studies will help you develop a strong research methodology for your own study.

Bringing It All Together

Alright, so we’ve looked at five important questions that you need to ask (and answer) to help you develop a strong synthesis within your literature review.  To recap, these are:

  • Which things are broadly agreed upon within the current research?
  • Which things are the subject of disagreement (or at least, present mixed findings)?
  • Which theories seem to be central to your research topic and how do they relate or compare to each other?
  • Which contexts have (and haven’t) been covered?
  • Which methodological approaches are most common?

Importantly, you’re not just asking yourself these questions for the sake of asking them – they’re not just a reflection exercise. You need to weave your answers to them into your actual literature review when you write it up. How exactly you do this will vary from project to project depending on the structure you opt for, but you’ll still need to address them within your literature review, whichever route you go.

The best approach is to spend some time actually writing out your answers to these questions, as opposed to just thinking about them in your head. Putting your thoughts onto paper really helps you flesh out your thinking . As you do this, don’t just write down the answers – instead, think about what they mean in terms of the research gap you’ll present , as well as the methodological approach you’ll take . Your literature synthesis needs to lay the groundwork for these two things, so it’s essential that you link all of it together in your mind, and of course, on paper.

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  • Synthesizing Sources | Examples & Synthesis Matrix

Synthesizing Sources | Examples & Synthesis Matrix

Published on July 4, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Synthesizing sources involves combining the work of other scholars to provide new insights. It’s a way of integrating sources that helps situate your work in relation to existing research.

Synthesizing sources involves more than just summarizing . You must emphasize how each source contributes to current debates, highlighting points of (dis)agreement and putting the sources in conversation with each other.

You might synthesize sources in your literature review to give an overview of the field or throughout your research paper when you want to position your work in relation to existing research.

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Table of contents

Example of synthesizing sources, how to synthesize sources, synthesis matrix, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about synthesizing sources.

Let’s take a look at an example where sources are not properly synthesized, and then see what can be done to improve it.

This paragraph provides no context for the information and does not explain the relationships between the sources described. It also doesn’t analyze the sources or consider gaps in existing research.

Research on the barriers to second language acquisition has primarily focused on age-related difficulties. Building on Lenneberg’s (1967) theory of a critical period of language acquisition, Johnson and Newport (1988) tested Lenneberg’s idea in the context of second language acquisition. Their research seemed to confirm that young learners acquire a second language more easily than older learners. Recent research has considered other potential barriers to language acquisition. Schepens, van Hout, and van der Slik (2022) have revealed that the difficulties of learning a second language at an older age are compounded by dissimilarity between a learner’s first language and the language they aim to acquire. Further research needs to be carried out to determine whether the difficulty faced by adult monoglot speakers is also faced by adults who acquired a second language during the “critical period.”

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To synthesize sources, group them around a specific theme or point of contention.

As you read sources, ask:

  • What questions or ideas recur? Do the sources focus on the same points, or do they look at the issue from different angles?
  • How does each source relate to others? Does it confirm or challenge the findings of past research?
  • Where do the sources agree or disagree?

Once you have a clear idea of how each source positions itself, put them in conversation with each other. Analyze and interpret their points of agreement and disagreement. This displays the relationships among sources and creates a sense of coherence.

Consider both implicit and explicit (dis)agreements. Whether one source specifically refutes another or just happens to come to different conclusions without specifically engaging with it, you can mention it in your synthesis either way.

Synthesize your sources using:

  • Topic sentences to introduce the relationship between the sources
  • Signal phrases to attribute ideas to their authors
  • Transition words and phrases to link together different ideas

To more easily determine the similarities and dissimilarities among your sources, you can create a visual representation of their main ideas with a synthesis matrix . This is a tool that you can use when researching and writing your paper, not a part of the final text.

In a synthesis matrix, each column represents one source, and each row represents a common theme or idea among the sources. In the relevant rows, fill in a short summary of how the source treats each theme or topic.

This helps you to clearly see the commonalities or points of divergence among your sources. You can then synthesize these sources in your work by explaining their relationship.

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
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  • What is ChatGPT?
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Synthesizing sources means comparing and contrasting the work of other scholars to provide new insights.

It involves analyzing and interpreting the points of agreement and disagreement among sources.

You might synthesize sources in your literature review to give an overview of the field of research or throughout your paper when you want to contribute something new to existing research.

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.

In an essay or paper , each paragraph should focus on a single idea. By stating the main idea in the topic sentence, you clarify what the paragraph is about for both yourself and your reader.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

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When you write a literature review or essay, you have to go beyond just summarizing the articles you’ve read – you need to synthesize the literature to show how it all fits together (and how your own research fits in).

Synthesizing simply means combining. Instead of summarizing the main points of each source in turn, you put together the ideas and findings of multiple sources in order to make an overall point.

At the most basic level, this involves looking for similarities and differences between your sources. Your synthesis should show the reader where the sources overlap and where they diverge.

Unsynthesized Example

Franz (2008) studied undergraduate online students. He looked at 17 females and 18 males and found that none of them liked APA. According to Franz, the evidence suggested that all students are reluctant to learn citations style. Perez (2010) also studies undergraduate students. She looked at 42 females and 50 males and found that males were significantly more inclined to use citation software ( p < .05). Findings suggest that females might graduate sooner. Goldstein (2012) looked at British undergraduates. Among a sample of 50, all females, all confident in their abilities to cite and were eager to write their dissertations.

Synthesized Example

Studies of undergraduate students reveal conflicting conclusions regarding relationships between advanced scholarly study and citation efficacy. Although Franz (2008) found that no participants enjoyed learning citation style, Goldstein (2012) determined in a larger study that all participants watched felt comfortable citing sources, suggesting that variables among participant and control group populations must be examined more closely. Although Perez (2010) expanded on Franz’s original study with a larger, more diverse sample…

Step 1: Organize your sources

After collecting the relevant literature, you’ve got a lot of information to work through, and no clear idea of how it all fits together.

Before you can start writing, you need to organize your notes in a way that allows you to see the relationships between sources.

One way to begin synthesizing the literature is to put your notes into a table. Depending on your topic and the type of literature you’re dealing with, there are a couple of different ways you can organize this.

Summary table

A summary table collates the key points of each source under consistent headings. This is a good approach if your sources tend to have a similar structure – for instance, if they’re all empirical papers.

Each row in the table lists one source, and each column identifies a specific part of the source. You can decide which headings to include based on what’s most relevant to the literature you’re dealing with.

For example, you might include columns for things like aims, methods, variables, population, sample size, and conclusion.

For each study, you briefly summarize each of these aspects. You can also include columns for your own evaluation and analysis.

summary table for synthesizing the literature

The summary table gives you a quick overview of the key points of each source. This allows you to group sources by relevant similarities, as well as noticing important differences or contradictions in their findings.

Synthesis matrix

A synthesis matrix is useful when your sources are more varied in their purpose and structure – for example, when you’re dealing with books and essays making various different arguments about a topic.

Each column in the table lists one source. Each row is labeled with a specific concept, topic or theme that recurs across all or most of the sources.

Then, for each source, you summarize the main points or arguments related to the theme.

synthesis matrix

The purposes of the table is to identify the common points that connect the sources, as well as identifying points where they diverge or disagree.

Step 2: Outline your structure

Now you should have a clear overview of the main connections and differences between the sources you’ve read. Next, you need to decide how you’ll group them together and the order in which you’ll discuss them.

For shorter papers, your outline can just identify the focus of each paragraph; for longer papers, you might want to divide it into sections with headings.

There are a few different approaches you can take to help you structure your synthesis.

If your sources cover a broad time period, and you found patterns in how researchers approached the topic over time, you can organize your discussion chronologically .

That doesn’t mean you just summarize each paper in chronological order; instead, you should group articles into time periods and identify what they have in common, as well as signalling important turning points or developments in the literature.

If the literature covers various different topics, you can organize it thematically .

That means that each paragraph or section focuses on a specific theme and explains how that theme is approached in the literature.

synthesizing the literature using themes

Source Used with Permission: The Chicago School

If you’re drawing on literature from various different fields or they use a wide variety of research methods, you can organize your sources methodologically .

That means grouping together studies based on the type of research they did and discussing the findings that emerged from each method.

If your topic involves a debate between different schools of thought, you can organize it theoretically .

That means comparing the different theories that have been developed and grouping together papers based on the position or perspective they take on the topic, as well as evaluating which arguments are most convincing.

Step 3: Write paragraphs with topic sentences

What sets a synthesis apart from a summary is that it combines various sources. The easiest way to think about this is that each paragraph should discuss a few different sources, and you should be able to condense the overall point of the paragraph into one sentence.

This is called a topic sentence , and it usually appears at the start of the paragraph. The topic sentence signals what the whole paragraph is about; every sentence in the paragraph should be clearly related to it.

A topic sentence can be a simple summary of the paragraph’s content:

“Early research on [x] focused heavily on [y].”

For an effective synthesis, you can use topic sentences to link back to the previous paragraph, highlighting a point of debate or critique:

“Several scholars have pointed out the flaws in this approach.” “While recent research has attempted to address the problem, many of these studies have methodological flaws that limit their validity.”

By using topic sentences, you can ensure that your paragraphs are coherent and clearly show the connections between the articles you are discussing.

As you write your paragraphs, avoid quoting directly from sources: use your own words to explain the commonalities and differences that you found in the literature.

Don’t try to cover every single point from every single source – the key to synthesizing is to extract the most important and relevant information and combine it to give your reader an overall picture of the state of knowledge on your topic.

Step 4: Revise, edit and proofread

Like any other piece of academic writing, synthesizing literature doesn’t happen all in one go – it involves redrafting, revising, editing and proofreading your work.

Checklist for Synthesis

  •   Do I introduce the paragraph with a clear, focused topic sentence?
  •   Do I discuss more than one source in the paragraph?
  •   Do I mention only the most relevant findings, rather than describing every part of the studies?
  •   Do I discuss the similarities or differences between the sources, rather than summarizing each source in turn?
  •   Do I put the findings or arguments of the sources in my own words?
  •   Is the paragraph organized around a single idea?
  •   Is the paragraph directly relevant to my research question or topic?
  •   Is there a logical transition from this paragraph to the next one?

Further Information

How to Synthesise: a Step-by-Step Approach

Help…I”ve Been Asked to Synthesize!

Learn how to Synthesise (combine information from sources)

How to write a Psychology Essay

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Literature Reviews

  • 5. Synthesize your findings
  • Getting started
  • Types of reviews
  • 1. Define your research question
  • 2. Plan your search
  • 3. Search the literature
  • 4. Organize your results

How to synthesize

Approaches to synthesis.

  • 6. Write the review
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In the synthesis step of a literature review, researchers analyze and integrate information from selected sources to identify patterns and themes. This involves critically evaluating findings, recognizing commonalities, and constructing a cohesive narrative that contributes to the understanding of the research topic.

Here are some examples of how to approach synthesizing the literature:

💡 By themes or concepts

🕘 Historically or chronologically

📊 By methodology

These organizational approaches can also be used when writing your review. It can be beneficial to begin organizing your references by these approaches in your citation manager by using folders, groups, or collections.

Create a synthesis matrix

A synthesis matrix allows you to visually organize your literature.

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Writing in the Health and Social Sciences: Literature Reviews and Synthesis Tools

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Systematic Literature Reviews: Steps & Resources

literature synthesis table

These steps for conducting a systematic literature review are listed below . 

Also see subpages for more information about:

  • The different types of literature reviews, including systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis methods
  • Tools & Tutorials

Literature Review & Systematic Review Steps

  • Develop a Focused Question
  • Scope the Literature  (Initial Search)
  • Refine & Expand the Search
  • Limit the Results
  • Download Citations
  • Abstract & Analyze
  • Create Flow Diagram
  • Synthesize & Report Results

1. Develop a Focused   Question 

Consider the PICO Format: Population/Problem, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome

Focus on defining the Population or Problem and Intervention (don't narrow by Comparison or Outcome just yet!)

"What are the effects of the Pilates method for patients with low back pain?"

Tools & Additional Resources:

  • PICO Question Help
  • Stillwell, Susan B., DNP, RN, CNE; Fineout-Overholt, Ellen, PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN; Melnyk, Bernadette Mazurek, PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FNAP, FAAN; Williamson, Kathleen M., PhD, RN Evidence-Based Practice, Step by Step: Asking the Clinical Question, AJN The American Journal of Nursing : March 2010 - Volume 110 - Issue 3 - p 58-61 doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000368959.11129.79

2. Scope the Literature

A "scoping search" investigates the breadth and/or depth of the initial question or may identify a gap in the literature. 

Eligible studies may be located by searching in:

  • Background sources (books, point-of-care tools)
  • Article databases
  • Trial registries
  • Grey literature
  • Cited references
  • Reference lists

When searching, if possible, translate terms to controlled vocabulary of the database. Use text word searching when necessary.

Use Boolean operators to connect search terms:

  • Combine separate concepts with AND  (resulting in a narrower search)
  • Connecting synonyms with OR  (resulting in an expanded search)

Search:  pilates AND ("low back pain"  OR  backache )

Video Tutorials - Translating PICO Questions into Search Queries

  • Translate Your PICO Into a Search in PubMed (YouTube, Carrie Price, 5:11) 
  • Translate Your PICO Into a Search in CINAHL (YouTube, Carrie Price, 4:56)

3. Refine & Expand Your Search

Expand your search strategy with synonymous search terms harvested from:

  • database thesauri
  • reference lists
  • relevant studies


(pilates OR exercise movement techniques) AND ("low back pain" OR backache* OR sciatica OR lumbago OR spondylosis)

As you develop a final, reproducible strategy for each database, save your strategies in a:

  • a personal database account (e.g., MyNCBI for PubMed)
  • Log in with your NYU credentials
  • Open and "Make a Copy" to create your own tracker for your literature search strategies

4. Limit Your Results

Use database filters to limit your results based on your defined inclusion/exclusion criteria.  In addition to relying on the databases' categorical filters, you may also need to manually screen results.  

  • Limit to Article type, e.g.,:  "randomized controlled trial" OR multicenter study
  • Limit by publication years, age groups, language, etc.

NOTE: Many databases allow you to filter to "Full Text Only".  This filter is  not recommended . It excludes articles if their full text is not available in that particular database (CINAHL, PubMed, etc), but if the article is relevant, it is important that you are able to read its title and abstract, regardless of 'full text' status. The full text is likely to be accessible through another source (a different database, or Interlibrary Loan).  

  • Filters in PubMed
  • CINAHL Advanced Searching Tutorial

5. Download Citations

Selected citations and/or entire sets of search results can be downloaded from the database into a citation management tool. If you are conducting a systematic review that will require reporting according to PRISMA standards, a citation manager can help you keep track of the number of articles that came from each database, as well as the number of duplicate records.

In Zotero, you can create a Collection for the combined results set, and sub-collections for the results from each database you search.  You can then use Zotero's 'Duplicate Items" function to find and merge duplicate records.

File structure of a Zotero library, showing a combined pooled set, and sub folders representing results from individual databases.

  • Citation Managers - General Guide

6. Abstract and Analyze

  • Migrate citations to data collection/extraction tool
  • Screen Title/Abstracts for inclusion/exclusion
  • Screen and appraise full text for relevance, methods, 
  • Resolve disagreements by consensus

Covidence is a web-based tool that enables you to work with a team to screen titles/abstracts and full text for inclusion in your review, as well as extract data from the included studies.

Screenshot of the Covidence interface, showing Title and abstract screening phase.

  • Covidence Support
  • Critical Appraisal Tools
  • Data Extraction Tools

7. Create Flow Diagram

The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses) flow diagram is a visual representation of the flow of records through different phases of a systematic review.  It depicts the number of records identified, included and excluded.  It is best used in conjunction with the PRISMA checklist .

Example PRISMA diagram showing number of records identified, duplicates removed, and records excluded.

Example from: Stotz, S. A., McNealy, K., Begay, R. L., DeSanto, K., Manson, S. M., & Moore, K. R. (2021). Multi-level diabetes prevention and treatment interventions for Native people in the USA and Canada: A scoping review. Current Diabetes Reports, 2 (11), 46.

  • PRISMA Flow Diagram Generator (, Haddaway et al. )
  • PRISMA Diagram Templates  (Word and PDF)
  • Make a copy of the file to fill out the template
  • Image can be downloaded as PDF, PNG, JPG, or SVG
  • Covidence generates a PRISMA diagram that is automatically updated as records move through the review phases

8. Synthesize & Report Results

There are a number of reporting guideline available to guide the synthesis and reporting of results in systematic literature reviews.

It is common to organize findings in a matrix, also known as a Table of Evidence (ToE).

Example of a review matrix, using Microsoft Excel, showing the results of a systematic literature review.

  • Reporting Guidelines for Systematic Reviews
  • Download a sample template of a health sciences review matrix  (GoogleSheets)

Steps modified from: 

Cook, D. A., & West, C. P. (2012). Conducting systematic reviews in medical education: a stepwise approach.   Medical Education , 46 (10), 943–952.

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Cochrane Training

Chapter 14: completing ‘summary of findings’ tables and grading the certainty of the evidence.

Holger J Schünemann, Julian PT Higgins, Gunn E Vist, Paul Glasziou, Elie A Akl, Nicole Skoetz, Gordon H Guyatt; on behalf of the Cochrane GRADEing Methods Group (formerly Applicability and Recommendations Methods Group) and the Cochrane Statistical Methods Group

Key Points:

  • A ‘Summary of findings’ table for a given comparison of interventions provides key information concerning the magnitudes of relative and absolute effects of the interventions examined, the amount of available evidence and the certainty (or quality) of available evidence.
  • ‘Summary of findings’ tables include a row for each important outcome (up to a maximum of seven). Accepted formats of ‘Summary of findings’ tables and interactive ‘Summary of findings’ tables can be produced using GRADE’s software GRADEpro GDT.
  • Cochrane has adopted the GRADE approach (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) for assessing certainty (or quality) of a body of evidence.
  • The GRADE approach specifies four levels of the certainty for a body of evidence for a given outcome: high, moderate, low and very low.
  • GRADE assessments of certainty are determined through consideration of five domains: risk of bias, inconsistency, indirectness, imprecision and publication bias. For evidence from non-randomized studies and rarely randomized studies, assessments can then be upgraded through consideration of three further domains.

Cite this chapter as: Schünemann HJ, Higgins JPT, Vist GE, Glasziou P, Akl EA, Skoetz N, Guyatt GH. Chapter 14: Completing ‘Summary of findings’ tables and grading the certainty of the evidence. In: Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.4 (updated August 2023). Cochrane, 2023. Available from .

14.1 ‘Summary of findings’ tables

14.1.1 introduction to ‘summary of findings’ tables.

‘Summary of findings’ tables present the main findings of a review in a transparent, structured and simple tabular format. In particular, they provide key information concerning the certainty or quality of evidence (i.e. the confidence or certainty in the range of an effect estimate or an association), the magnitude of effect of the interventions examined, and the sum of available data on the main outcomes. Cochrane Reviews should incorporate ‘Summary of findings’ tables during planning and publication, and should have at least one key ‘Summary of findings’ table representing the most important comparisons. Some reviews may include more than one ‘Summary of findings’ table, for example if the review addresses more than one major comparison, or includes substantially different populations that require separate tables (e.g. because the effects differ or it is important to show results separately). In the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR),  all ‘Summary of findings’ tables for a review appear at the beginning, before the Background section.

14.1.2 Selecting outcomes for ‘Summary of findings’ tables

Planning for the ‘Summary of findings’ table starts early in the systematic review, with the selection of the outcomes to be included in: (i) the review; and (ii) the ‘Summary of findings’ table. This is a crucial step, and one that review authors need to address carefully.

To ensure production of optimally useful information, Cochrane Reviews begin by developing a review question and by listing all main outcomes that are important to patients and other decision makers (see Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 ). The GRADE approach to assessing the certainty of the evidence (see Section 14.2 ) defines and operationalizes a rating process that helps separate outcomes into those that are critical, important or not important for decision making. Consultation and feedback on the review protocol, including from consumers and other decision makers, can enhance this process.

Critical outcomes are likely to include clearly important endpoints; typical examples include mortality and major morbidity (such as strokes and myocardial infarction). However, they may also represent frequent minor and rare major side effects, symptoms, quality of life, burdens associated with treatment, and resource issues (costs). Burdens represent the impact of healthcare workload on patient function and well-being, and include the demands of adhering to an intervention that patients or caregivers (e.g. family) may dislike, such as having to undergo more frequent tests, or the restrictions on lifestyle that certain interventions require (Spencer-Bonilla et al 2017).

Frequently, when formulating questions that include all patient-important outcomes for decision making, review authors will confront reports of studies that have not included all these outcomes. This is particularly true for adverse outcomes. For instance, randomized trials might contribute evidence on intended effects, and on frequent, relatively minor side effects, but not report on rare adverse outcomes such as suicide attempts. Chapter 19 discusses strategies for addressing adverse effects. To obtain data for all important outcomes it may be necessary to examine the results of non-randomized studies (see Chapter 24 ). Cochrane, in collaboration with others, has developed guidance for review authors to support their decision about when to look for and include non-randomized studies (Schünemann et al 2013).

If a review includes only randomized trials, these trials may not address all important outcomes and it may therefore not be possible to address these outcomes within the constraints of the review. Review authors should acknowledge these limitations and make them transparent to readers. Review authors are encouraged to include non-randomized studies to examine rare or long-term adverse effects that may not adequately be studied in randomized trials. This raises the possibility that harm outcomes may come from studies in which participants differ from those in studies used in the analysis of benefit. Review authors will then need to consider how much such differences are likely to impact on the findings, and this will influence the certainty of evidence because of concerns about indirectness related to the population (see Section 14.2.2 ).

Non-randomized studies can provide important information not only when randomized trials do not report on an outcome or randomized trials suffer from indirectness, but also when the evidence from randomized trials is rated as very low and non-randomized studies provide evidence of higher certainty. Further discussion of these issues appears also in Chapter 24 .

14.1.3 General template for ‘Summary of findings’ tables

Several alternative standard versions of ‘Summary of findings’ tables have been developed to ensure consistency and ease of use across reviews, inclusion of the most important information needed by decision makers, and optimal presentation (see examples at Figures 14.1.a and 14.1.b ). These formats are supported by research that focused on improved understanding of the information they intend to convey (Carrasco-Labra et al 2016, Langendam et al 2016, Santesso et al 2016). They are available through GRADE’s official software package developed to support the GRADE approach: GRADEpro GDT (

Standard Cochrane ‘Summary of findings’ tables include the following elements using one of the accepted formats. Further guidance on each of these is provided in Section 14.1.6 .

  • A brief description of the population and setting addressed by the available evidence (which may be slightly different to or narrower than those defined by the review question).
  • A brief description of the comparison addressed in the ‘Summary of findings’ table, including both the experimental and comparison interventions.
  • A list of the most critical and/or important health outcomes, both desirable and undesirable, limited to seven or fewer outcomes.
  • A measure of the typical burden of each outcomes (e.g. illustrative risk, or illustrative mean, on comparator intervention).
  • The absolute and relative magnitude of effect measured for each (if both are appropriate).
  • The numbers of participants and studies contributing to the analysis of each outcomes.
  • A GRADE assessment of the overall certainty of the body of evidence for each outcome (which may vary by outcome).
  • Space for comments.
  • Explanations (formerly known as footnotes).

Ideally, ‘Summary of findings’ tables are supported by more detailed tables (known as ‘evidence profiles’) to which the review may be linked, which provide more detailed explanations. Evidence profiles include the same important health outcomes, and provide greater detail than ‘Summary of findings’ tables of both of the individual considerations feeding into the grading of certainty and of the results of the studies (Guyatt et al 2011a). They ensure that a structured approach is used to rating the certainty of evidence. Although they are rarely published in Cochrane Reviews, evidence profiles are often used, for example, by guideline developers in considering the certainty of the evidence to support guideline recommendations. Review authors will find it easier to develop the ‘Summary of findings’ table by completing the rating of the certainty of evidence in the evidence profile first in GRADEpro GDT. They can then automatically convert this to one of the ‘Summary of findings’ formats in GRADEpro GDT, including an interactive ‘Summary of findings’ for publication.

As a measure of the magnitude of effect for dichotomous outcomes, the ‘Summary of findings’ table should provide a relative measure of effect (e.g. risk ratio, odds ratio, hazard) and measures of absolute risk. For other types of data, an absolute measure alone (such as a difference in means for continuous data) might be sufficient. It is important that the magnitude of effect is presented in a meaningful way, which may require some transformation of the result of a meta-analysis (see also Chapter 15, Section 15.4 and Section 15.5 ). Reviews with more than one main comparison should include a separate ‘Summary of findings’ table for each comparison.

Figure 14.1.a provides an example of a ‘Summary of findings’ table. Figure 15.1.b  provides an alternative format that may further facilitate users’ understanding and interpretation of the review’s findings. Evidence evaluating different formats suggests that the ‘Summary of findings’ table should include a risk difference as a measure of the absolute effect and authors should preferably use a format that includes a risk difference .

A detailed description of the contents of a ‘Summary of findings’ table appears in Section 14.1.6 .

Figure 14.1.a Example of a ‘Summary of findings’ table

Summary of findings (for interactive version click here )

a All the stockings in the nine studies included in this review were below-knee compression stockings. In four studies the compression strength was 20 mmHg to 30 mmHg at the ankle. It was 10 mmHg to 20 mmHg in the other four studies. Stockings come in different sizes. If a stocking is too tight around the knee it can prevent essential venous return causing the blood to pool around the knee. Compression stockings should be fitted properly. A stocking that is too tight could cut into the skin on a long flight and potentially cause ulceration and increased risk of DVT. Some stockings can be slightly thicker than normal leg covering and can be potentially restrictive with tight foot wear. It is a good idea to wear stockings around the house prior to travel to ensure a good, comfortable fit. Participants put their stockings on two to three hours before the flight in most of the studies. The availability and cost of stockings can vary.

b Two studies recruited high risk participants defined as those with previous episodes of DVT, coagulation disorders, severe obesity, limited mobility due to bone or joint problems, neoplastic disease within the previous two years, large varicose veins or, in one of the studies, participants taller than 190 cm and heavier than 90 kg. The incidence for the seven studies that excluded high risk participants was 1.45% and the incidence for the two studies that recruited high-risk participants (with at least one risk factor) was 2.43%. We have used 10 and 30 per 1000 to express different risk strata, respectively.

c The confidence interval crosses no difference and does not rule out a small increase.

d The measurement of oedema was not validated (indirectness of the outcome) or blinded to the intervention (risk of bias).

e If there are very few or no events and the number of participants is large, judgement about the certainty of evidence (particularly judgements about imprecision) may be based on the absolute effect. Here the certainty rating may be considered ‘high’ if the outcome was appropriately assessed and the event, in fact, did not occur in 2821 studied participants.

f None of the other studies reported adverse effects, apart from four cases of superficial vein thrombosis in varicose veins in the knee region that were compressed by the upper edge of the stocking in one study.

Figure 14.1.b Example of alternative ‘Summary of findings’ table

14.1.4 Producing ‘Summary of findings’ tables

The GRADE Working Group’s software, GRADEpro GDT ( ), including GRADE’s interactive handbook, is available to assist review authors in the preparation of ‘Summary of findings’ tables. GRADEpro can use data on the comparator group risk and the effect estimate (entered by the review authors or imported from files generated in RevMan) to produce the relative effects and absolute risks associated with experimental interventions. In addition, it leads the user through the process of a GRADE assessment, and produces a table that can be used as a standalone table in a review (including by direct import into software such as RevMan or integration with RevMan Web), or an interactive ‘Summary of findings’ table (see help resources in GRADEpro).

14.1.5 Statistical considerations in ‘Summary of findings’ tables dichotomous outcomes.

‘Summary of findings’ tables should include both absolute and relative measures of effect for dichotomous outcomes. Risk ratios, odds ratios and risk differences are different ways of comparing two groups with dichotomous outcome data (see Chapter 6, Section 6.4.1 ). Furthermore, there are two distinct risk ratios, depending on which event (e.g. ‘yes’ or ‘no’) is the focus of the analysis (see Chapter 6, Section ). In the presence of a non-zero intervention effect, any variation across studies in the comparator group risks (i.e. variation in the risk of the event occurring without the intervention of interest, for example in different populations) makes it impossible for more than one of these measures to be truly the same in every study.

It has long been assumed in epidemiology that relative measures of effect are more consistent than absolute measures of effect from one scenario to another. There is empirical evidence to support this assumption (Engels et al 2000, Deeks and Altman 2001, Furukawa et al 2002). For this reason, meta-analyses should generally use either a risk ratio or an odds ratio as a measure of effect (see Chapter 10, Section 10.4.3 ). Correspondingly, a single estimate of relative effect is likely to be a more appropriate summary than a single estimate of absolute effect. If a relative effect is indeed consistent across studies, then different comparator group risks will have different implications for absolute benefit. For instance, if the risk ratio is consistently 0.75, then the experimental intervention would reduce a comparator group risk of 80% to 60% in the intervention group (an absolute risk reduction of 20 percentage points), but would also reduce a comparator group risk of 20% to 15% in the intervention group (an absolute risk reduction of 5 percentage points).

‘Summary of findings’ tables are built around the assumption of a consistent relative effect. It is therefore important to consider the implications of this effect for different comparator group risks (these can be derived or estimated from a number of sources, see Section ), which may require an assessment of the certainty of evidence for prognostic evidence (Spencer et al 2012, Iorio et al 2015). For any comparator group risk, it is possible to estimate a corresponding intervention group risk (i.e. the absolute risk with the intervention) from the meta-analytic risk ratio or odds ratio. Note that the numbers provided in the ‘Corresponding risk’ column are specific to the ‘risks’ in the adjacent column.

For the meta-analytic risk ratio (RR) and assumed comparator risk (ACR) the corresponding intervention risk is obtained as:

literature synthesis table

As an example, in Figure 14.1.a , the meta-analytic risk ratio for symptomless deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is RR = 0.10 (95% CI 0.04 to 0.26). Assuming a comparator risk of ACR = 10 per 1000 = 0.01, we obtain:

literature synthesis table

For the meta-analytic odds ratio (OR) and assumed comparator risk, ACR, the corresponding intervention risk is obtained as:

literature synthesis table

Upper and lower confidence limits for the corresponding intervention risk are obtained by replacing RR or OR by their upper and lower confidence limits, respectively (e.g. replacing 0.10 with 0.04, then with 0.26, in the example). Such confidence intervals do not incorporate uncertainty in the assumed comparator risks.

When dealing with risk ratios, it is critical that the same definition of ‘event’ is used as was used for the meta-analysis. For example, if the meta-analysis focused on ‘death’ (as opposed to survival) as the event, then corresponding risks in the ‘Summary of findings’ table must also refer to ‘death’.

In (rare) circumstances in which there is clear rationale to assume a consistent risk difference in the meta-analysis, in principle it is possible to present this for relevant ‘assumed risks’ and their corresponding risks, and to present the corresponding (different) relative effects for each assumed risk.

The risk difference expresses the difference between the ACR and the corresponding intervention risk (or the difference between the experimental and the comparator intervention).

For the meta-analytic risk ratio (RR) and assumed comparator risk (ACR) the corresponding risk difference is obtained as (note that risks can also be expressed using percentage or percentage points):

literature synthesis table

As an example, in Figure 14.1.b the meta-analytic risk ratio is 0.41 (95% CI 0.29 to 0.55) for diarrhoea in children less than 5 years of age. Assuming a comparator group risk of 22.3% we obtain:

literature synthesis table

For the meta-analytic odds ratio (OR) and assumed comparator risk (ACR) the absolute risk difference is obtained as (percentage points):

literature synthesis table

Upper and lower confidence limits for the absolute risk difference are obtained by re-running the calculation above while replacing RR or OR by their upper and lower confidence limits, respectively (e.g. replacing 0.41 with 0.28, then with 0.55, in the example). Such confidence intervals do not incorporate uncertainty in the assumed comparator risks. Time-to-event outcomes

Time-to-event outcomes measure whether and when a particular event (e.g. death) occurs (van Dalen et al 2007). The impact of the experimental intervention relative to the comparison group on time-to-event outcomes is usually measured using a hazard ratio (HR) (see Chapter 6, Section 6.8.1 ).

A hazard ratio expresses a relative effect estimate. It may be used in various ways to obtain absolute risks and other interpretable quantities for a specific population. Here we describe how to re-express hazard ratios in terms of: (i) absolute risk of event-free survival within a particular period of time; (ii) absolute risk of an event within a particular period of time; and (iii) median time to the event. All methods are built on an assumption of consistent relative effects (i.e. that the hazard ratio does not vary over time).

(i) Absolute risk of event-free survival within a particular period of time Event-free survival (e.g. overall survival) is commonly reported by individual studies. To obtain absolute effects for time-to-event outcomes measured as event-free survival, the summary HR can be used in conjunction with an assumed proportion of patients who are event-free in the comparator group (Tierney et al 2007). This proportion of patients will be specific to a period of time of observation. However, it is not strictly necessary to specify this period of time. For instance, a proportion of 50% of event-free patients might apply to patients with a high event rate observed over 1 year, or to patients with a low event rate observed over 2 years.

literature synthesis table

As an example, suppose the meta-analytic hazard ratio is 0.42 (95% CI 0.25 to 0.72). Assuming a comparator group risk of event-free survival (e.g. for overall survival people being alive) at 2 years of ACR = 900 per 1000 = 0.9 we obtain:

literature synthesis table

so that that 956 per 1000 people will be alive with the experimental intervention at 2 years. The derivation of the risk should be explained in a comment or footnote.

(ii) Absolute risk of an event within a particular period of time To obtain this absolute effect, again the summary HR can be used (Tierney et al 2007):

literature synthesis table

In the example, suppose we assume a comparator group risk of events (e.g. for mortality, people being dead) at 2 years of ACR = 100 per 1000 = 0.1. We obtain:

literature synthesis table

so that that 44 per 1000 people will be dead with the experimental intervention at 2 years.

(iii) Median time to the event Instead of absolute numbers, the time to the event in the intervention and comparison groups can be expressed as median survival time in months or years. To obtain median survival time the pooled HR can be applied to an assumed median survival time in the comparator group (Tierney et al 2007):

literature synthesis table

In the example, assuming a comparator group median survival time of 80 months, we obtain:

literature synthesis table

For all three of these options for re-expressing results of time-to-event analyses, upper and lower confidence limits for the corresponding intervention risk are obtained by replacing HR by its upper and lower confidence limits, respectively (e.g. replacing 0.42 with 0.25, then with 0.72, in the example). Again, as for dichotomous outcomes, such confidence intervals do not incorporate uncertainty in the assumed comparator group risks. This is of special concern for long-term survival with a low or moderate mortality rate and a corresponding high number of censored patients (i.e. a low number of patients under risk and a high censoring rate).

14.1.6 Detailed contents of a ‘Summary of findings’ table table title and header.

The title of each ‘Summary of findings’ table should specify the healthcare question, framed in terms of the population and making it clear exactly what comparison of interventions are made. In Figure 14.1.a , the population is people taking long aeroplane flights, the intervention is compression stockings, and the control is no compression stockings.

The first rows of each ‘Summary of findings’ table should provide the following ‘header’ information:

Patients or population This further clarifies the population (and possibly the subpopulations) of interest and ideally the magnitude of risk of the most crucial adverse outcome at which an intervention is directed. For instance, people on a long-haul flight may be at different risks for DVT; those using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might be at different risk for side effects; while those with atrial fibrillation may be at low (< 1%), moderate (1% to 4%) or high (> 4%) yearly risk of stroke.

Setting This should state any specific characteristics of the settings of the healthcare question that might limit the applicability of the summary of findings to other settings (e.g. primary care in Europe and North America).

Intervention The experimental intervention.

Comparison The comparator intervention (including no specific intervention). Outcomes

The rows of a ‘Summary of findings’ table should include all desirable and undesirable health outcomes (listed in order of importance) that are essential for decision making, up to a maximum of seven outcomes. If there are more outcomes in the review, review authors will need to omit the less important outcomes from the table, and the decision selecting which outcomes are critical or important to the review should be made during protocol development (see Chapter 3 ). Review authors should provide time frames for the measurement of the outcomes (e.g. 90 days or 12 months) and the type of instrument scores (e.g. ranging from 0 to 100).

Note that review authors should include the pre-specified critical and important outcomes in the table whether data are available or not. However, they should be alert to the possibility that the importance of an outcome (e.g. a serious adverse effect) may only become known after the protocol was written or the analysis was carried out, and should take appropriate actions to include these in the ‘Summary of findings’ table.

The ‘Summary of findings’ table can include effects in subgroups of the population for different comparator risks and effect sizes separately. For instance, in Figure 14.1.b effects are presented for children younger and older than 5 years separately. Review authors may also opt to produce separate ‘Summary of findings’ tables for different populations.

Review authors should include serious adverse events, but it might be possible to combine minor adverse events as a single outcome, and describe this in an explanatory footnote (note that it is not appropriate to add events together unless they are independent, that is, a participant who has experienced one adverse event has an unaffected chance of experiencing the other adverse event).

Outcomes measured at multiple time points represent a particular problem. In general, to keep the table simple, review authors should present multiple time points only for outcomes critical to decision making, where either the result or the decision made are likely to vary over time. The remainder should be presented at a common time point where possible.

Review authors can present continuous outcome measures in the ‘Summary of findings’ table and should endeavour to make these interpretable to the target audience. This requires that the units are clear and readily interpretable, for example, days of pain, or frequency of headache, and the name and scale of any measurement tools used should be stated (e.g. a Visual Analogue Scale, ranging from 0 to 100). However, many measurement instruments are not readily interpretable by non-specialist clinicians or patients, for example, points on a Beck Depression Inventory or quality of life score. For these, a more interpretable presentation might involve converting a continuous to a dichotomous outcome, such as >50% improvement (see Chapter 15, Section 15.5 ). Best estimate of risk with comparator intervention

Review authors should provide up to three typical risks for participants receiving the comparator intervention. For dichotomous outcomes, we recommend that these be presented in the form of the number of people experiencing the event per 100 or 1000 people (natural frequency) depending on the frequency of the outcome. For continuous outcomes, this would be stated as a mean or median value of the outcome measured.

Estimated or assumed comparator intervention risks could be based on assessments of typical risks in different patient groups derived from the review itself, individual representative studies in the review, or risks derived from a systematic review of prognosis studies or other sources of evidence which may in turn require an assessment of the certainty for the prognostic evidence (Spencer et al 2012, Iorio et al 2015). Ideally, risks would reflect groups that clinicians can easily identify on the basis of their presenting features.

An explanatory footnote should specify the source or rationale for each comparator group risk, including the time period to which it corresponds where appropriate. In Figure 14.1.a , clinicians can easily differentiate individuals with risk factors for deep venous thrombosis from those without. If there is known to be little variation in baseline risk then review authors may use the median comparator group risk across studies. If typical risks are not known, an option is to choose the risk from the included studies, providing the second highest for a high and the second lowest for a low risk population. Risk with intervention

For dichotomous outcomes, review authors should provide a corresponding absolute risk for each comparator group risk, along with a confidence interval. This absolute risk with the (experimental) intervention will usually be derived from the meta-analysis result presented in the relative effect column (see Section ). Formulae are provided in Section 14.1.5 . Review authors should present the absolute effect in the same format as the risks with comparator intervention (see Section ), for example as the number of people experiencing the event per 1000 people.

For continuous outcomes, a difference in means or standardized difference in means should be presented with its confidence interval. These will typically be obtained directly from a meta-analysis. Explanatory text should be used to clarify the meaning, as in Figures 14.1.a and 14.1.b . Risk difference

For dichotomous outcomes, the risk difference can be provided using one of the ‘Summary of findings’ table formats as an additional option (see Figure 14.1.b ). This risk difference expresses the difference between the experimental and comparator intervention and will usually be derived from the meta-analysis result presented in the relative effect column (see Section ). Formulae are provided in Section 14.1.5 . Review authors should present the risk difference in the same format as assumed and corresponding risks with comparator intervention (see Section ); for example, as the number of people experiencing the event per 1000 people or as percentage points if the assumed and corresponding risks are expressed in percentage.

For continuous outcomes, if the ‘Summary of findings’ table includes this option, the mean difference can be presented here and the ‘corresponding risk’ column left blank (see Figure 14.1.b ). Relative effect (95% CI)

The relative effect will typically be a risk ratio or odds ratio (or occasionally a hazard ratio) with its accompanying 95% confidence interval, obtained from a meta-analysis performed on the basis of the same effect measure. Risk ratios and odds ratios are similar when the comparator intervention risks are low and effects are small, but may differ considerably when comparator group risks increase. The meta-analysis may involve an assumption of either fixed or random effects, depending on what the review authors consider appropriate, and implying that the relative effect is either an estimate of the effect of the intervention, or an estimate of the average effect of the intervention across studies, respectively. Number of participants (studies)

This column should include the number of participants assessed in the included studies for each outcome and the corresponding number of studies that contributed these participants. Certainty of the evidence (GRADE)

Review authors should comment on the certainty of the evidence (also known as quality of the body of evidence or confidence in the effect estimates). Review authors should use the specific evidence grading system developed by the GRADE Working Group (Atkins et al 2004, Guyatt et al 2008, Guyatt et al 2011a), which is described in detail in Section 14.2 . The GRADE approach categorizes the certainty in a body of evidence as ‘high’, ‘moderate’, ‘low’ or ‘very low’ by outcome. This is a result of judgement, but the judgement process operates within a transparent structure. As an example, the certainty would be ‘high’ if the summary were of several randomized trials with low risk of bias, but the rating of certainty becomes lower if there are concerns about risk of bias, inconsistency, indirectness, imprecision or publication bias. Judgements other than of ‘high’ certainty should be made transparent using explanatory footnotes or the ‘Comments’ column in the ‘Summary of findings’ table (see Section ). Comments

The aim of the ‘Comments’ field is to help interpret the information or data identified in the row. For example, this may be on the validity of the outcome measure or the presence of variables that are associated with the magnitude of effect. Important caveats about the results should be flagged here. Not all rows will need comments, and it is best to leave a blank if there is nothing warranting a comment. Explanations

Detailed explanations should be included as footnotes to support the judgements in the ‘Summary of findings’ table, such as the overall GRADE assessment. The explanations should describe the rationale for important aspects of the content. Table 14.1.a lists guidance for useful explanations. Explanations should be concise, informative, relevant, easy to understand and accurate. If explanations cannot be sufficiently described in footnotes, review authors should provide further details of the issues in the Results and Discussion sections of the review.

Table 14.1.a Guidance for providing useful explanations in ‘Summary of findings’ (SoF) tables. Adapted from Santesso et al (2016)

14.2 Assessing the certainty or quality of a body of evidence

14.2.1 the grade approach.

The Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation Working Group (GRADE Working Group) has developed a system for grading the certainty of evidence (Schünemann et al 2003, Atkins et al 2004, Schünemann et al 2006, Guyatt et al 2008, Guyatt et al 2011a). Over 100 organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO), the American College of Physicians, the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health (CADTH) and the National Institutes of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK have adopted the GRADE system ( ).

Cochrane has also formally adopted this approach, and all Cochrane Reviews should use GRADE to evaluate the certainty of evidence for important outcomes (see MECIR Box 14.2.a ).

MECIR Box 14.2.a Relevant expectations for conduct of intervention reviews

For systematic reviews, the GRADE approach defines the certainty of a body of evidence as the extent to which one can be confident that an estimate of effect or association is close to the quantity of specific interest. Assessing the certainty of a body of evidence involves consideration of within- and across-study risk of bias (limitations in study design and execution or methodological quality), inconsistency (or heterogeneity), indirectness of evidence, imprecision of the effect estimates and risk of publication bias (see Section 14.2.2 ), as well as domains that may increase our confidence in the effect estimate (as described in Section 14.2.3 ). The GRADE system entails an assessment of the certainty of a body of evidence for each individual outcome. Judgements about the domains that determine the certainty of evidence should be described in the results or discussion section and as part of the ‘Summary of findings’ table.

The GRADE approach specifies four levels of certainty ( Figure 14.2.a ). For interventions, including diagnostic and other tests that are evaluated as interventions (Schünemann et al 2008b, Schünemann et al 2008a, Balshem et al 2011, Schünemann et al 2012), the starting point for rating the certainty of evidence is categorized into two types:

  • randomized trials; and
  • non-randomized studies of interventions (NRSI), including observational studies (including but not limited to cohort studies, and case-control studies, cross-sectional studies, case series and case reports, although not all of these designs are usually included in Cochrane Reviews).

There are many instances in which review authors rely on information from NRSI, in particular to evaluate potential harms (see Chapter 24 ). In addition, review authors can obtain relevant data from both randomized trials and NRSI, with each type of evidence complementing the other (Schünemann et al 2013).

In GRADE, a body of evidence from randomized trials begins with a high-certainty rating while a body of evidence from NRSI begins with a low-certainty rating. The lower rating with NRSI is the result of the potential bias induced by the lack of randomization (i.e. confounding and selection bias).

However, when using the new Risk Of Bias In Non-randomized Studies of Interventions (ROBINS-I) tool (Sterne et al 2016), an assessment tool that covers the risk of bias due to lack of randomization, all studies may start as high certainty of the evidence (Schünemann et al 2018). The approach of starting all study designs (including NRSI) as high certainty does not conflict with the initial GRADE approach of starting the rating of NRSI as low certainty evidence. This is because a body of evidence from NRSI should generally be downgraded by two levels due to the inherent risk of bias associated with the lack of randomization, namely confounding and selection bias. Not downgrading NRSI from high to low certainty needs transparent and detailed justification for what mitigates concerns about confounding and selection bias (Schünemann et al 2018). Very few examples of where not rating down by two levels is appropriate currently exist.

The highest certainty rating is a body of evidence when there are no concerns in any of the GRADE factors listed in Figure 14.2.a . Review authors often downgrade evidence to moderate, low or even very low certainty evidence, depending on the presence of the five factors in Figure 14.2.a . Usually, certainty rating will fall by one level for each factor, up to a maximum of three levels for all factors. If there are very severe problems for any one domain (e.g. when assessing risk of bias, all studies were unconcealed, unblinded and lost over 50% of their patients to follow-up), evidence may fall by two levels due to that factor alone. It is not possible to rate lower than ‘very low certainty’ evidence.

Review authors will generally grade evidence from sound non-randomized studies as low certainty, even if ROBINS-I is used. If, however, such studies yield large effects and there is no obvious bias explaining those effects, review authors may rate the evidence as moderate or – if the effect is large enough – even as high certainty ( Figure 14.2.a ). The very low certainty level is appropriate for, but is not limited to, studies with critical problems and unsystematic clinical observations (e.g. case series or case reports).

Figure 14.2.a Levels of the certainty of a body of evidence in the GRADE approach. *Upgrading criteria are usually applicable to non-randomized studies only (but exceptions exist).

14.2.2 Domains that can lead to decreasing the certainty level of a body of evidence   

We now describe in more detail the five reasons (or domains) for downgrading the certainty of a body of evidence for a specific outcome. In each case, if no reason is found for downgrading the evidence, it should be classified as 'no limitation or not serious' (not important enough to warrant downgrading). If a reason is found for downgrading the evidence, it should be classified as 'serious' (downgrading the certainty rating by one level) or 'very serious' (downgrading the certainty grade by two levels). For non-randomized studies assessed with ROBINS-I, rating down by three levels should be classified as 'extremely' serious.

(1) Risk of bias or limitations in the detailed design and implementation

Our confidence in an estimate of effect decreases if studies suffer from major limitations that are likely to result in a biased assessment of the intervention effect. For randomized trials, these methodological limitations include failure to generate a random sequence, lack of allocation sequence concealment, lack of blinding (particularly with subjective outcomes that are highly susceptible to biased assessment), a large loss to follow-up or selective reporting of outcomes. Chapter 8 provides a discussion of study-level assessments of risk of bias in the context of a Cochrane Review, and proposes an approach to assessing the risk of bias for an outcome across studies as ‘Low’ risk of bias, ‘Some concerns’ and ‘High’ risk of bias for randomized trials. Levels of ‘Low’. ‘Moderate’, ‘Serious’ and ‘Critical’ risk of bias arise for non-randomized studies assessed with ROBINS-I ( Chapter 25 ). These assessments should feed directly into this GRADE domain. In particular, ‘Low’ risk of bias would indicate ‘no limitation’; ‘Some concerns’ would indicate either ‘no limitation’ or ‘serious limitation’; and ‘High’ risk of bias would indicate either ‘serious limitation’ or ‘very serious limitation’. ‘Critical’ risk of bias on ROBINS-I would indicate extremely serious limitations in GRADE. Review authors should use their judgement to decide between alternative categories, depending on the likely magnitude of the potential biases.

Every study addressing a particular outcome will differ, to some degree, in the risk of bias. Review authors should make an overall judgement on whether the certainty of evidence for an outcome warrants downgrading on the basis of study limitations. The assessment of study limitations should apply to the studies contributing to the results in the ‘Summary of findings’ table, rather than to all studies that could potentially be included in the analysis. We have argued in Chapter 7, Section 7.6.2 , that the primary analysis should be restricted to studies at low (or low and unclear) risk of bias where possible.

Table 14.2.a presents the judgements that must be made in going from assessments of the risk of bias to judgements about study limitations for each outcome included in a ‘Summary of findings’ table. A rating of high certainty evidence can be achieved only when most evidence comes from studies that met the criteria for low risk of bias. For example, of the 22 studies addressing the impact of beta-blockers on mortality in patients with heart failure, most probably or certainly used concealed allocation of the sequence, all blinded at least some key groups and follow-up of randomized patients was almost complete (Brophy et al 2001). The certainty of evidence might be downgraded by one level when most of the evidence comes from individual studies either with a crucial limitation for one item, or with some limitations for multiple items. An example of very serious limitations, warranting downgrading by two levels, is provided by evidence on surgery versus conservative treatment in the management of patients with lumbar disc prolapse (Gibson and Waddell 2007). We are uncertain of the benefit of surgery in reducing symptoms after one year or longer, because the one study included in the analysis had inadequate concealment of the allocation sequence and the outcome was assessed using a crude rating by the surgeon without blinding.

(2) Unexplained heterogeneity or inconsistency of results

When studies yield widely differing estimates of effect (heterogeneity or variability in results), investigators should look for robust explanations for that heterogeneity. For instance, drugs may have larger relative effects in sicker populations or when given in larger doses. A detailed discussion of heterogeneity and its investigation is provided in Chapter 10, Section 10.10 and Section 10.11 . If an important modifier exists, with good evidence that important outcomes are different in different subgroups (which would ideally be pre-specified), then a separate ‘Summary of findings’ table may be considered for a separate population. For instance, a separate ‘Summary of findings’ table would be used for carotid endarterectomy in symptomatic patients with high grade stenosis (70% to 99%) in which the intervention is, in the hands of the right surgeons, beneficial, and another (if review authors considered it relevant) for asymptomatic patients with low grade stenosis (less than 30%) in which surgery appears harmful (Orrapin and Rerkasem 2017). When heterogeneity exists and affects the interpretation of results, but review authors are unable to identify a plausible explanation with the data available, the certainty of the evidence decreases.

(3) Indirectness of evidence

Two types of indirectness are relevant. First, a review comparing the effectiveness of alternative interventions (say A and B) may find that randomized trials are available, but they have compared A with placebo and B with placebo. Thus, the evidence is restricted to indirect comparisons between A and B. Where indirect comparisons are undertaken within a network meta-analysis context, GRADE for network meta-analysis should be used (see Chapter 11, Section 11.5 ).

Second, a review may find randomized trials that meet eligibility criteria but address a restricted version of the main review question in terms of population, intervention, comparator or outcomes. For example, suppose that in a review addressing an intervention for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, most identified studies happened to be in people who also had diabetes. Then the evidence may be regarded as indirect in relation to the broader question of interest because the population is primarily related to people with diabetes. The opposite scenario can equally apply: a review addressing the effect of a preventive strategy for coronary heart disease in people with diabetes may consider studies in people without diabetes to provide relevant, albeit indirect, evidence. This would be particularly likely if investigators had conducted few if any randomized trials in the target population (e.g. people with diabetes). Other sources of indirectness may arise from interventions studied (e.g. if in all included studies a technical intervention was implemented by expert, highly trained specialists in specialist centres, then evidence on the effects of the intervention outside these centres may be indirect), comparators used (e.g. if the comparator groups received an intervention that is less effective than standard treatment in most settings) and outcomes assessed (e.g. indirectness due to surrogate outcomes when data on patient-important outcomes are not available, or when investigators seek data on quality of life but only symptoms are reported). Review authors should make judgements transparent when they believe downgrading is justified, based on differences in anticipated effects in the group of primary interest. Review authors may be aided and increase transparency of their judgements about indirectness if they use Table 14.2.b available in the GRADEpro GDT software (Schünemann et al 2013).

(4) Imprecision of results

When studies include few participants or few events, and thus have wide confidence intervals, review authors can lower their rating of the certainty of the evidence. The confidence intervals included in the ‘Summary of findings’ table will provide readers with information that allows them to make, to some extent, their own rating of precision. Review authors can use a calculation of the optimal information size (OIS) or review information size (RIS), similar to sample size calculations, to make judgements about imprecision (Guyatt et al 2011b, Schünemann 2016). The OIS or RIS is calculated on the basis of the number of participants required for an adequately powered individual study. If the 95% confidence interval excludes a risk ratio (RR) of 1.0, and the total number of events or patients exceeds the OIS criterion, precision is adequate. If the 95% CI includes appreciable benefit or harm (an RR of under 0.75 or over 1.25 is often suggested as a very rough guide) downgrading for imprecision may be appropriate even if OIS criteria are met (Guyatt et al 2011b, Schünemann 2016).

(5) High probability of publication bias

The certainty of evidence level may be downgraded if investigators fail to report studies on the basis of results (typically those that show no effect: publication bias) or outcomes (typically those that may be harmful or for which no effect was observed: selective outcome non-reporting bias). Selective reporting of outcomes from among multiple outcomes measured is assessed at the study level as part of the assessment of risk of bias (see Chapter 8, Section 8.7 ), so for the studies contributing to the outcome in the ‘Summary of findings’ table this is addressed by domain 1 above (limitations in the design and implementation). If a large number of studies included in the review do not contribute to an outcome, or if there is evidence of publication bias, the certainty of the evidence may be downgraded. Chapter 13 provides a detailed discussion of reporting biases, including publication bias, and how it may be tackled in a Cochrane Review. A prototypical situation that may elicit suspicion of publication bias is when published evidence includes a number of small studies, all of which are industry-funded (Bhandari et al 2004). For example, 14 studies of flavanoids in patients with haemorrhoids have shown apparent large benefits, but enrolled a total of only 1432 patients (i.e. each study enrolled relatively few patients) (Alonso-Coello et al 2006). The heavy involvement of sponsors in most of these studies raises questions of whether unpublished studies that suggest no benefit exist (publication bias).

A particular body of evidence can suffer from problems associated with more than one of the five factors listed here, and the greater the problems, the lower the certainty of evidence rating that should result. One could imagine a situation in which randomized trials were available, but all or virtually all of these limitations would be present, and in serious form. A very low certainty of evidence rating would result.

Table 14.2.a Further guidelines for domain 1 (of 5) in a GRADE assessment: going from assessments of risk of bias in studies to judgements about study limitations for main outcomes across studies

Table 14.2.b Judgements about indirectness by outcome (available in GRADEpro GDT)



Direct comparison:

Final judgement about indirectness across domains:

14.2.3 Domains that may lead to increasing the certainty level of a body of evidence

Although NRSI and downgraded randomized trials will generally yield a low rating for certainty of evidence, there will be unusual circumstances in which review authors could ‘upgrade’ such evidence to moderate or even high certainty ( Table 14.3.a ).

  • Large effects On rare occasions when methodologically well-done observational studies yield large, consistent and precise estimates of the magnitude of an intervention effect, one may be particularly confident in the results. A large estimated effect (e.g. RR >2 or RR <0.5) in the absence of plausible confounders, or a very large effect (e.g. RR >5 or RR <0.2) in studies with no major threats to validity, might qualify for this. In these situations, while the NRSI may possibly have provided an over-estimate of the true effect, the weak study design may not explain all of the apparent observed benefit. Thus, despite reservations based on the observational study design, review authors are confident that the effect exists. The magnitude of the effect in these studies may move the assigned certainty of evidence from low to moderate (if the effect is large in the absence of other methodological limitations). For example, a meta-analysis of observational studies showed that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injuries in cyclists by a large margin (odds ratio (OR) 0.31, 95% CI 0.26 to 0.37) (Thompson et al 2000). This large effect, in the absence of obvious bias that could create the association, suggests a rating of moderate-certainty evidence.  Note : GRADE guidance suggests the possibility of rating up one level for a large effect if the relative effect is greater than 2.0. However, if the point estimate of the relative effect is greater than 2.0, but the confidence interval is appreciably below 2.0, then some hesitation would be appropriate in the decision to rate up for a large effect. Another situation allows inference of a strong association without a formal comparative study. Consider the question of the impact of routine colonoscopy versus no screening for colon cancer on the rate of perforation associated with colonoscopy. Here, a large series of representative patients undergoing colonoscopy may provide high certainty evidence about the risk of perforation associated with colonoscopy. When the risk of the event among patients receiving the relevant comparator is known to be near 0 (i.e. we are certain that the incidence of spontaneous colon perforation in patients not undergoing colonoscopy is extremely low), case series or cohort studies of representative patients can provide high certainty evidence of adverse effects associated with an intervention, thereby allowing us to infer a strong association from even a limited number of events.
  • Dose-response The presence of a dose-response gradient may increase our confidence in the findings of observational studies and thereby enhance the assigned certainty of evidence. For example, our confidence in the result of observational studies that show an increased risk of bleeding in patients who have supratherapeutic anticoagulation levels is increased by the observation that there is a dose-response gradient between the length of time needed for blood to clot (as measured by the international normalized ratio (INR)) and an increased risk of bleeding (Levine et al 2004). A systematic review of NRSI investigating the effect of cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors on cardiovascular events found that the summary estimate (RR) with rofecoxib was 1.33 (95% CI 1.00 to 1.79) with doses less than 25mg/d, and 2.19 (95% CI 1.64 to 2.91) with doses more than 25mg/d. Although residual confounding is likely to exist in the NRSI that address this issue, the existence of a dose-response gradient and the large apparent effect of higher doses of rofecoxib markedly increase our strength of inference that the association cannot be explained by residual confounding, and is therefore likely to be both causal and, at high levels of exposure, substantial.  Note : GRADE guidance suggests the possibility of rating up one level for a large effect if the relative effect is greater than 2.0. Here, the fact that the point estimate of the relative effect is greater than 2.0, but the confidence interval is appreciably below 2.0 might make some hesitate in the decision to rate up for a large effect
  • Plausible confounding On occasion, all plausible biases from randomized or non-randomized studies may be working to under-estimate an apparent intervention effect. For example, if only sicker patients receive an experimental intervention or exposure, yet they still fare better, it is likely that the actual intervention or exposure effect is larger than the data suggest. For instance, a rigorous systematic review of observational studies including a total of 38 million patients demonstrated higher death rates in private for-profit versus private not-for-profit hospitals (Devereaux et al 2002). One possible bias relates to different disease severity in patients in the two hospital types. It is likely, however, that patients in the not-for-profit hospitals were sicker than those in the for-profit hospitals. Thus, to the extent that residual confounding existed, it would bias results against the not-for-profit hospitals. The second likely bias was the possibility that higher numbers of patients with excellent private insurance coverage could lead to a hospital having more resources and a spill-over effect that would benefit those without such coverage. Since for-profit hospitals are likely to admit a larger proportion of such well-insured patients than not-for-profit hospitals, the bias is once again against the not-for-profit hospitals. Since the plausible biases would all diminish the demonstrated intervention effect, one might consider the evidence from these observational studies as moderate rather than low certainty. A parallel situation exists when observational studies have failed to demonstrate an association, but all plausible biases would have increased an intervention effect. This situation will usually arise in the exploration of apparent harmful effects. For example, because the hypoglycaemic drug phenformin causes lactic acidosis, the related agent metformin was under suspicion for the same toxicity. Nevertheless, very large observational studies have failed to demonstrate an association (Salpeter et al 2007). Given the likelihood that clinicians would be more alert to lactic acidosis in the presence of the agent and over-report its occurrence, one might consider this moderate, or even high certainty, evidence refuting a causal relationship between typical therapeutic doses of metformin and lactic acidosis.

14.3 Describing the assessment of the certainty of a body of evidence using the GRADE framework

Review authors should report the grading of the certainty of evidence in the Results section for each outcome for which this has been performed, providing the rationale for downgrading or upgrading the evidence, and referring to the ‘Summary of findings’ table where applicable.

Table 14.3.a provides a framework and examples for how review authors can justify their judgements about the certainty of evidence in each domain. These justifications should also be included in explanatory notes to the ‘Summary of Findings’ table (see Section ).

Chapter 15, Section 15.6 , describes in more detail how the overall GRADE assessment across all domains can be used to draw conclusions about the effects of the intervention, as well as providing implications for future research.

Table 14.3.a Framework for describing the certainty of evidence and justifying downgrading or upgrading

14.4 Chapter information

Authors: Holger J Schünemann, Julian PT Higgins, Gunn E Vist, Paul Glasziou, Elie A Akl, Nicole Skoetz, Gordon H Guyatt; on behalf of the Cochrane GRADEing Methods Group (formerly Applicability and Recommendations Methods Group) and the Cochrane Statistical Methods Group

Acknowledgements: Andrew D Oxman contributed to earlier versions. Professor Penny Hawe contributed to the text on adverse effects in earlier versions. Jon Deeks provided helpful contributions on an earlier version of this chapter. For details of previous authors and editors of the Handbook , please refer to the Preface.

Funding: This work was in part supported by funding from the Michael G DeGroote Cochrane Canada Centre and the Ontario Ministry of Health.

14.5 References

Alonso-Coello P, Zhou Q, Martinez-Zapata MJ, Mills E, Heels-Ansdell D, Johanson JF, Guyatt G. Meta-analysis of flavonoids for the treatment of haemorrhoids. British Journal of Surgery 2006; 93 : 909-920.

Atkins D, Best D, Briss PA, Eccles M, Falck-Ytter Y, Flottorp S, Guyatt GH, Harbour RT, Haugh MC, Henry D, Hill S, Jaeschke R, Leng G, Liberati A, Magrini N, Mason J, Middleton P, Mrukowicz J, O'Connell D, Oxman AD, Phillips B, Schünemann HJ, Edejer TT, Varonen H, Vist GE, Williams JW, Jr., Zaza S. Grading quality of evidence and strength of recommendations. BMJ 2004; 328 : 1490.

Balshem H, Helfand M, Schünemann HJ, Oxman AD, Kunz R, Brozek J, Vist GE, Falck-Ytter Y, Meerpohl J, Norris S, Guyatt GH. GRADE guidelines: 3. Rating the quality of evidence. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2011; 64 : 401-406.

Bhandari M, Busse JW, Jackowski D, Montori VM, Schünemann H, Sprague S, Mears D, Schemitsch EH, Heels-Ansdell D, Devereaux PJ. Association between industry funding and statistically significant pro-industry findings in medical and surgical randomized trials. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2004; 170 : 477-480.

Brophy JM, Joseph L, Rouleau JL. Beta-blockers in congestive heart failure. A Bayesian meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine 2001; 134 : 550-560.

Carrasco-Labra A, Brignardello-Petersen R, Santesso N, Neumann I, Mustafa RA, Mbuagbaw L, Etxeandia Ikobaltzeta I, De Stio C, McCullagh LJ, Alonso-Coello P, Meerpohl JJ, Vandvik PO, Brozek JL, Akl EA, Bossuyt P, Churchill R, Glenton C, Rosenbaum S, Tugwell P, Welch V, Garner P, Guyatt G, Schünemann HJ. Improving GRADE evidence tables part 1: a randomized trial shows improved understanding of content in summary of findings tables with a new format. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2016; 74 : 7-18.

Deeks JJ, Altman DG. Effect measures for meta-analysis of trials with binary outcomes. In: Egger M, Davey Smith G, Altman DG, editors. Systematic Reviews in Health Care: Meta-analysis in Context . 2nd ed. London (UK): BMJ Publication Group; 2001. p. 313-335.

Devereaux PJ, Choi PT, Lacchetti C, Weaver B, Schünemann HJ, Haines T, Lavis JN, Grant BJ, Haslam DR, Bhandari M, Sullivan T, Cook DJ, Walter SD, Meade M, Khan H, Bhatnagar N, Guyatt GH. A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies comparing mortality rates of private for-profit and private not-for-profit hospitals. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2002; 166 : 1399-1406.

Engels EA, Schmid CH, Terrin N, Olkin I, Lau J. Heterogeneity and statistical significance in meta-analysis: an empirical study of 125 meta-analyses. Statistics in Medicine 2000; 19 : 1707-1728.

Furukawa TA, Guyatt GH, Griffith LE. Can we individualize the 'number needed to treat'? An empirical study of summary effect measures in meta-analyses. International Journal of Epidemiology 2002; 31 : 72-76.

Gibson JN, Waddell G. Surgical interventions for lumbar disc prolapse: updated Cochrane Review. Spine 2007; 32 : 1735-1747.

Guyatt G, Oxman A, Vist G, Kunz R, Falck-Ytter Y, Alonso-Coello P, Schünemann H. GRADE: an emerging consensus on rating quality of evidence and strength of recommendations. BMJ 2008; 336 : 3.

Guyatt G, Oxman AD, Akl EA, Kunz R, Vist G, Brozek J, Norris S, Falck-Ytter Y, Glasziou P, DeBeer H, Jaeschke R, Rind D, Meerpohl J, Dahm P, Schünemann HJ. GRADE guidelines: 1. Introduction-GRADE evidence profiles and summary of findings tables. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2011a; 64 : 383-394.

Guyatt GH, Oxman AD, Kunz R, Brozek J, Alonso-Coello P, Rind D, Devereaux PJ, Montori VM, Freyschuss B, Vist G, Jaeschke R, Williams JW, Jr., Murad MH, Sinclair D, Falck-Ytter Y, Meerpohl J, Whittington C, Thorlund K, Andrews J, Schünemann HJ. GRADE guidelines 6. Rating the quality of evidence--imprecision. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2011b; 64 : 1283-1293.

Iorio A, Spencer FA, Falavigna M, Alba C, Lang E, Burnand B, McGinn T, Hayden J, Williams K, Shea B, Wolff R, Kujpers T, Perel P, Vandvik PO, Glasziou P, Schünemann H, Guyatt G. Use of GRADE for assessment of evidence about prognosis: rating confidence in estimates of event rates in broad categories of patients. BMJ 2015; 350 : h870.

Langendam M, Carrasco-Labra A, Santesso N, Mustafa RA, Brignardello-Petersen R, Ventresca M, Heus P, Lasserson T, Moustgaard R, Brozek J, Schünemann HJ. Improving GRADE evidence tables part 2: a systematic survey of explanatory notes shows more guidance is needed. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2016; 74 : 19-27.

Levine MN, Raskob G, Landefeld S, Kearon C, Schulman S. Hemorrhagic complications of anticoagulant treatment: the Seventh ACCP Conference on Antithrombotic and Thrombolytic Therapy. Chest 2004; 126 : 287S-310S.

Orrapin S, Rerkasem K. Carotid endarterectomy for symptomatic carotid stenosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017; 6 : CD001081.

Salpeter S, Greyber E, Pasternak G, Salpeter E. Risk of fatal and nonfatal lactic acidosis with metformin use in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007; 4 : CD002967.

Santesso N, Carrasco-Labra A, Langendam M, Brignardello-Petersen R, Mustafa RA, Heus P, Lasserson T, Opiyo N, Kunnamo I, Sinclair D, Garner P, Treweek S, Tovey D, Akl EA, Tugwell P, Brozek JL, Guyatt G, Schünemann HJ. Improving GRADE evidence tables part 3: detailed guidance for explanatory footnotes supports creating and understanding GRADE certainty in the evidence judgments. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2016; 74 : 28-39.

Schünemann HJ, Best D, Vist G, Oxman AD, Group GW. Letters, numbers, symbols and words: how to communicate grades of evidence and recommendations. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2003; 169 : 677-680.

Schünemann HJ, Jaeschke R, Cook DJ, Bria WF, El-Solh AA, Ernst A, Fahy BF, Gould MK, Horan KL, Krishnan JA, Manthous CA, Maurer JR, McNicholas WT, Oxman AD, Rubenfeld G, Turino GM, Guyatt G. An official ATS statement: grading the quality of evidence and strength of recommendations in ATS guidelines and recommendations. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 2006; 174 : 605-614.

Schünemann HJ, Oxman AD, Brozek J, Glasziou P, Jaeschke R, Vist GE, Williams JW, Jr., Kunz R, Craig J, Montori VM, Bossuyt P, Guyatt GH. Grading quality of evidence and strength of recommendations for diagnostic tests and strategies. BMJ 2008a; 336 : 1106-1110.

Schünemann HJ, Oxman AD, Brozek J, Glasziou P, Bossuyt P, Chang S, Muti P, Jaeschke R, Guyatt GH. GRADE: assessing the quality of evidence for diagnostic recommendations. ACP Journal Club 2008b; 149 : 2.

Schünemann HJ, Mustafa R, Brozek J. [Diagnostic accuracy and linked evidence--testing the chain]. Zeitschrift für Evidenz, Fortbildung und Qualität im Gesundheitswesen 2012; 106 : 153-160.

Schünemann HJ, Tugwell P, Reeves BC, Akl EA, Santesso N, Spencer FA, Shea B, Wells G, Helfand M. Non-randomized studies as a source of complementary, sequential or replacement evidence for randomized controlled trials in systematic reviews on the effects of interventions. Research Synthesis Methods 2013; 4 : 49-62.

Schünemann HJ. Interpreting GRADE's levels of certainty or quality of the evidence: GRADE for statisticians, considering review information size or less emphasis on imprecision? Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2016; 75 : 6-15.

Schünemann HJ, Cuello C, Akl EA, Mustafa RA, Meerpohl JJ, Thayer K, Morgan RL, Gartlehner G, Kunz R, Katikireddi SV, Sterne J, Higgins JPT, Guyatt G, Group GW. GRADE guidelines: 18. How ROBINS-I and other tools to assess risk of bias in nonrandomized studies should be used to rate the certainty of a body of evidence. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2018.

Spencer-Bonilla G, Quinones AR, Montori VM, International Minimally Disruptive Medicine W. Assessing the Burden of Treatment. Journal of General Internal Medicine 2017; 32 : 1141-1145.

Spencer FA, Iorio A, You J, Murad MH, Schünemann HJ, Vandvik PO, Crowther MA, Pottie K, Lang ES, Meerpohl JJ, Falck-Ytter Y, Alonso-Coello P, Guyatt GH. Uncertainties in baseline risk estimates and confidence in treatment effects. BMJ 2012; 345 : e7401.

Sterne JAC, Hernán MA, Reeves BC, Savović J, Berkman ND, Viswanathan M, Henry D, Altman DG, Ansari MT, Boutron I, Carpenter JR, Chan AW, Churchill R, Deeks JJ, Hróbjartsson A, Kirkham J, Jüni P, Loke YK, Pigott TD, Ramsay CR, Regidor D, Rothstein HR, Sandhu L, Santaguida PL, Schünemann HJ, Shea B, Shrier I, Tugwell P, Turner L, Valentine JC, Waddington H, Waters E, Wells GA, Whiting PF, Higgins JPT. ROBINS-I: a tool for assessing risk of bias in non-randomised studies of interventions. BMJ 2016; 355 : i4919.

Thompson DC, Rivara FP, Thompson R. Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2000; 2 : CD001855.

Tierney JF, Stewart LA, Ghersi D, Burdett S, Sydes MR. Practical methods for incorporating summary time-to-event data into meta-analysis. Trials 2007; 8 .

van Dalen EC, Tierney JF, Kremer LCM. Tips and tricks for understanding and using SR results. No. 7: time‐to‐event data. Evidence-Based Child Health 2007; 2 : 1089-1090.

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Evidence Syntheses and Systematic Reviews: Overview

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Analyze and Report

What is evidence synthesis.

Evidence Synthesis: general term used to refer to any method of identifying, selecting, and combining results from multiple studies. There are several types of reviews which fall under this term; the main ones are in the table below: 

Types of Reviews

General steps for conducting systematic reviews.

The number of steps for conducting Evidence Synthesis varies a little, depending on the source that one consults. However, the following steps are generally accepted in how Systematic Reviews are done:

  • Identify a gap in the literature and form a well-developed and answerable research question which will form the basis of your search
  • Select a framework that will help guide the type of study you’re undertaking
  • Different guidelines are used for documenting and reporting the protocols of your systematic review before the review is conducted. The protocol is created following whatever guideline you select.
  • Select Databases and Grey Literature Sources
  • For steps 3 and 4, it is advisable to consult a librarian before embarking on this phase of the review process. They can recommend databases and other sources to use and even help design complex searches.
  • A protocol is a detailed plan for the project, and after it is written, it should be registered with an appropriate registry.
  • Search Databases and Other Sources
  • Not all databases use the same search syntax, so when searching multiple databases, use search syntaxes that would work in individual databases.
  • Use a citation management tool to help store and organize your citations during the review process; great help when de-duplicating your citation results
  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria already developed help you remove articles that are not relevant to your topic. 
  • Assess the quality of your findings to eliminate bias in either the design of the study or in the results/conclusions (generally not done outside of Systematic Reviews).

Extract and Synthesize

  • Extract the data from what's left of the studies that have been analyzed
  • Extraction tools are used to get data from individual studies that will be analyzed or summarized. 
  • Synthesize the main findings of your research

Report Findings

Report the results using a statistical approach or in a narrative form.

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Librarians can:

  • Provide guidance on which methodology best suits your goals
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  • Design and implement comprehensive and reproducible database-specific search strategies 
  • Recommend software for article screening
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  • Offer best practices on documentation of searches

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Synthesis involves combining ideas or results from two or more sources in a meaningful way. In EBP the synthesis is focused on the clinical question. You may combine the details from the article appraisals into themes to organize the ideas. The writing must remain objective and accurately report the information from the original sources.

  • Quantity: The number of studies available
  • Quality: The level and strength of evidence available
  • Consistency of results: The consistency of the research findings
  • Applicability of evidence: Determined by ability for evidence to answer questions

Discuss implications for practice, education, or research. The discussion may include suggestions or recommendations for changes to practice, education or research as well as confirmation of current practice. A table may be used to display the information collected from the articles under discussion.

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Richard B. Canty & Klavs F. Jensen

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literature synthesis table

19th Edition of Global Conference on Catalysis, Chemical Engineering & Technology

Victor Mukhin

  • Scientific Program

Victor Mukhin, Speaker at Chemical Engineering Conferences

Title : Active carbons as nanoporous materials for solving of environmental problems

However, up to now, the main carriers of catalytic additives have been mineral sorbents: silica gels, alumogels. This is obviously due to the fact that they consist of pure homogeneous components SiO2 and Al2O3, respectively. It is generally known that impurities, especially the ash elements, are catalytic poisons that reduce the effectiveness of the catalyst. Therefore, carbon sorbents with 5-15% by weight of ash elements in their composition are not used in the above mentioned technologies. However, in such an important field as a gas-mask technique, carbon sorbents (active carbons) are carriers of catalytic additives, providing effective protection of a person against any types of potent poisonous substances (PPS). In ESPE “JSC "Neorganika" there has been developed the technology of unique ashless spherical carbon carrier-catalysts by the method of liquid forming of furfural copolymers with subsequent gas-vapor activation, brand PAC. Active carbons PAC have 100% qualitative characteristics of the three main properties of carbon sorbents: strength - 100%, the proportion of sorbing pores in the pore space – 100%, purity - 100% (ash content is close to zero). A particularly outstanding feature of active PAC carbons is their uniquely high mechanical compressive strength of 740 ± 40 MPa, which is 3-7 times larger than that of  such materials as granite, quartzite, electric coal, and is comparable to the value for cast iron - 400-1000 MPa. This allows the PAC to operate under severe conditions in moving and fluidized beds.  Obviously, it is time to actively develop catalysts based on PAC sorbents for oil refining, petrochemicals, gas processing and various technologies of organic synthesis.

Victor M. Mukhin was born in 1946 in the town of Orsk, Russia. In 1970 he graduated the Technological Institute in Leningrad. Victor M. Mukhin was directed to work to the scientific-industrial organization "Neorganika" (Elektrostal, Moscow region) where he is working during 47 years, at present as the head of the laboratory of carbon sorbents.     Victor M. Mukhin defended a Ph. D. thesis and a doctoral thesis at the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia (in 1979 and 1997 accordingly). Professor of Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia. Scientific interests: production, investigation and application of active carbons, technological and ecological carbon-adsorptive processes, environmental protection, production of ecologically clean food.   

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  1. A Synthesis of Literature Review Guidelines from Information Systems

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  22. Active carbons as nanoporous materials for solving of environmental

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  23. Nikolay Zelinsky

    Nikolay Dmitriyevich Zelinsky (Russian: Николай Дмитриевич Зелинский; 6 February 1861 - 31 July 1953) was a Russian and Soviet chemist.Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union (1929).. Zelinsky studied at the University of Odessa and at the universities of Leipzig and Göttingen in Germany.Zelinsky was one of the founders of theory on organic ...

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