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CMP101 - Composition 1 - Sherf

The Synthesis Matrix

A Synthesis Matrix is a great tool for organizing your research. As you read your articles, take note of quotes and ideas that support (or refute) your main concepts by entering them in the Synthesis Matrix. This will allow you to easily find evidence to support your thesis, and make citing your sources much easier.

Components of a synthesis matrix

The Synthesis Matrix is a tool to organize your research and sources.

At the top of the form you will add your Thesis Statement, Research Question, or Main Topic. This will guide your research.

You'll want to pull apart your Thesis Statement to isolate your Concepts.

Your Main Concepts are what you will use to find your Secondary Sources. Let's identify the Main Concepts using the Research Question,

How did nineteenth-century gender roles impact women's financial, political, and psychological wellbeing?

identifying your main concepts


Some of your concepts may be more important than others. For example, the concepts Nineteenth-Century and Women apply to all the other concepts stated in the Research Question (Financial, Political, and Psychological). That is to say that you will use variants of these terms for all or most of your research, whereas the other concepts may be separate searches.

Some examples of search strings are

Nineteenth-century AND women AND political oppression

Nineteenth-century AND women AND psychological oppression

Nineteenth-century AND women AND financial oppression

Words matter

When you search in Library databases your words matter. In most cases, the database is looking for things that contain the words in your search. It is not looking for things about what you enter. For this reason you will want to create a list of Search Terms or Keywords to use when you search for sources. Different words will give you different results.

search terms


types of oppression

Use the Library's databases to find sources on your topic.

Pro Tips

  • Refer to your keywords and concepts to build your Search Strategy. These steps will save you time and frustration and give you better results.
  • Begin your search with your Main Concept only - Nineteenth-century women
  • Use the Advanced Search features in the databases to add your other concepts one at a time.
  • Be persistent!
  • Be Flexible!
  • Ask for help if you need it!

Setting up the Synthesis Matrix

  1. Enter your Thesis Statement, Research Question, or Topic at the top of the form
  2. The first row of the Matrix will contain your sources. List each source in a different column.
  3. The first column of the Matrix will contain your Main Concepts. Enter each separate concept in a separate row.

matrix example

Copy the MLA Style Citations at the end of the form.

citation example

Filling in the Matrix

In each column you will have a different source and in each row you will have a different concept. This will allow you to organize your sources by topic which will make it easier to synthesize your sources into your paper.

Enter your notes and copy helpful quotations into the corresponding box for the Source and Concept. You may end up with empty boxes, that's OK as long as that source provides good information on your other concepts.

fill in the form

Most of the Library's databases will format citations in the MLA and APA styles. This is the easiest way to capture your citations. When you find a source look for the Cite/Citation or Email options and copy and paste the citation onto the Matrix.

When writing research papers it is important to cite all the resources you used. As you're conducting your research be sure to collect the citation information from each book, article, or Website you find. Whether you quote directly from one of these sources or put the ideas in your own words you must cite it. If you don't cite correctly you could be found guilty of plagiarism. 

Citations are easy to find in the Library's databases; many of which allow you to email the correctly formatted citation to yourself. Basic citation information includes the title of the work, author, publisher, date, and perhaps source. Use the citation templates to find what information you need to collect for your sources.

Check out our Citation Guide for more information about citations and citing.

cite research