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Understanding the Synthesis of Results in a Systematic Review

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Systematic reviews can be an efficient tool for compiling studies pertaining to an area of research. To do so, authors of systematic reviews need to follow a strict systematic review methodology to ensure that the final product is of a high standard. By achieving a systematic review gold standard, authors find that their work is both insightful and useful within their field.

One area that is critical to get right is synthesizing the results of a systematic review. But what exactly does that mean? Is it simply a summary of findings table in a systematic review, or is it more? Here, we look to answer those questions by exploring what synthesis of results in a systematic review is, and why it is important to understand how to write it.

What Is Synthesis Of Results?

When it comes to the results section of a systematic review, it is crucial for the author to properly synthesize the results, and not simply restate results from previous studies. Giving a summary of data from studies is acceptable only when comparisons are being made. An author synthesizes study data by combining the results together to enable comparison and to allow others to draw further conclusions from them. A comparison will likely highlight, and identify differences and similarities in study characteristics and results. Differences will allow for debate to decide why they have occurred, and what that could mean. Similarities will work towards strengthening previously believed viewpoints.

How Do You Synthesize Findings?

The process of synthesizing results will vary according to the subject matter. However, an author must display all findings so that conclusions can easily be drawn from compiling all those results together. By ensuring that results are displayed effectively in a systematic review, an author can be certain that their final conclusions are persuasive and powerful. This also confers additional value and validity to the review.

In addition to displaying past results clearly, an author will also need to know how to summarize the analyzed data. This summary should take into account some form of evaluation that helps interpret the results. It is important, however, not to overlap into what the discussion section of your systematic review will contain. The discussion section seeks to explain any rising contradictions or agreements among studies, which arose during data synthesis. The discussion section uses already known research, mostly outlined in the background or introduction section to explain these contradictions or agreements. Synthesizing your results is merely about identifying the similarities and differences between the data from all previous studies.

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Why Is The Synthesis Of Results In A Systematic Review Important?

The results section of your systematic review is what the rest of your paper depends upon. Without a strong, and clear results section that brings together all pertinent, and relevant information of your review, you will be less likely to draw meaningful conclusions and start thought-provoking discussions. Plus, by compiling all findings together in a clear, and straightforward manner, you allow the results to start speaking for themselves. It helps add power to the conclusions you draw and gives less room for others to discount or discredit your interpretations.

Additionally, a synthesis of results is an opportunity to put all similar studies side by side. By bringing together all similar studies in the area of research, the subsequent results that are drawn become more persuasive. By identifying similarities, an author further supports an argument or viewpoint. By highlighting differences, an author starts a narrative that can investigate why those differences have occurred and what that could mean.

Final Takeaway

A systematic review may seem like an overwhelming concept from the outset. Bringing together multiple studies that have previously investigated an area of research can be a time-consuming and laborious procedure. It can be tough to face previously held beliefs that your systematic review can go on to discredit. However, a systematic review’s synthesis of results is a chance for authors to show any discrepancies that have not been thought through before. It is a necessary step to guide research toward vital issues that need to be investigated.

Bearing in mind the effort involved in the synthesis of results in a systematic review, it can be a good idea to automate the process. Software like DistillerSR can take out a lot of the cumbersome elements of compiling a systematic review. Doing so frees up a person’s time so that they can dedicate their energy to drawing conclusions and creating thought-provoking discussions that can help further an area of learning. Automation also helps make the results more comprehensive, robust, and reliable.

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