Reviewing the technical literature
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Reviewing the Technical Literature. Brian Paul. Gathering Evidence. Keyword searches Google Scholar ISI Web of Knowledge Be sure to evaluate whether the keword database covers the key journals in your field Keyword searching is iterative Kewords become more refined over time Closure

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Gathering evidence
Gathering Evidence

  • Keyword searches

    • Google Scholar

    • ISI Web of Knowledge

  • Be sure to evaluate whether the keword database covers the key journals in your field

  • Keyword searching is iterative

    • Kewords become more refined over time

  • Closure

    • Use citations to find new related papers

    • When no new papers are found, you have closure

Key features of a synthesis
Key Features of a Synthesis

  • It accurately reports information from the sources using different phrases and sentences;

  • It is organized in such a way that readers can immediately see where the information from the sources overlap;

  • It makes sense of the sources and helps the reader understand them in greater depth.

Different types of syntheses
Different types of syntheses

  • Background and Relevance

    • Purpose is to establish context and relevance

    • What is a relevant research question/problem?

  • Thesis-driven

    • Purpose is to establish uniqueness

    • What is a novel thesis (answer/solution)?

      • Where are the technical gaps in other theses?

      • How does the evidence support or deny your thesis?


  • Purpose: to help reader understand context of research

  • EX: Diffusion bonding of microreactors

    • What are microreactors?

      • Microchannels accelerated heat & mass transfer

      • Increase cross-section of flow by using arrays

    • Why are microreactors important?

      • Less time required in the channel  short channel lengths  miniaturization  distributed and portable processing

      • Faster heating and mixing  better process control  more precise chemical processing


  • Purpose: to establish a relevant question/problem

  • EX: Diffusion bonding of microreactors

    • Channel warpage is caused during the diffusion bonding of microchannel heat exchangers (MCHX)

    • Channel warpage can lead to flow maldistribution within the MCHX

    • Flow maldistribution reduces the effectiveness of MCHX requiring more surface area

    • More surface area requires the device to be larger

    • THEREFORE: Channel warpage must be minimized to enable miniaturization

  • OUTCOME: What causes channel warpage during diffusion bonding?

Research questions
Research Questions

  • Questions are typically iterative

    • Why do we miniaturize? (distributed processing)

      • How do we miniaturize? (chem etch and diff bonding)

        • What causes channel warpage during diffusion bonding? (nonuniform stress distribution)

          • What caused channel warpage in a particular diffusion bonding cycle?

(thermal warpage?)



Thesis driven

  • Purpose

    • Show readers that you are familiar with the field and are thus qualified to offer your own opinions

    • Where are the technical gaps?

  • Must start with a question

    • How can we create flow field uniformity within microchannels?

    • What causes channel warpage during diffusion bonding?

    • What caused channel warpage in a particular diffusion bonding cycle?

Read and evaluate each paper
Read and Evaluate Each Paper

  • What does this paper say about my focus?

    • Gaucho et al.1 found that header cross-sections must be 10X channel cross-sections in order to ensure the uniform distribution of flow.

  • What is the thesis, purpose or context of the source? What are the limitations of the paper?

    • In evaluating the distribution of cooling fluids within rocket engines, Gaucho et al. …

  • Is the source credible?

    • All claims were based on CFD simulations. No empirical evidence was provided to validate findings.


    • Trial and error methods were used to establish this principle.


    • A full factorial design of experiments was developed based on header diameter and channel diameter.

  • What questions remain (relevance)? What approaches have not been taken (thesis)?

  • What did you learn from this paper that is important for the reader to know?

Organizing the body of your synthesis
Organizing the Body of Your Synthesis

  • This is the value add

    • Group the literature together around common themes based on your evaluations (see prior slide)

    • Requires some thought i.e. this could take a while

  • How can you bring structure to the literature that has been published?

    • Chronology

    • Classification – what are the patterns you see

      • Diffusion brazing

        • Conventional brazing compounds

        • Electroplated phosphates

        • Nanopowders

Each synthesis paragraph
Each Synthesis Paragraph …

  • Begins with a topic sentence.

  • Includes information from more than one source.

  • Clearly indicates which material comes from which source using lead in phrases and in-text citations. 

    • Beware of accidental plagiarism which most often occurs when students are synthesizing sources and do not indicate where the synthesis ends and their own comments begin or vice verse.

  • Shows the similarities or differences between the different sources in ways that make the paper as informative as possible. Should include paper summaries and evaluations.

  • Represents the texts fairly--even if that seems to weaken the paper! You are simply repeating what the source says …

    • in fewer words

    • in your own words

Synthesis summary
Synthesis Summary

  • Remind readers of the most significant themes you have found.

    • Key concept in creating uniform flow fields is to produce the same pressure drop through all pathways in the device.

  • Offer an interpretation of the material and/or take a position. 

    • No uniform flow field micromixers currently exist in the literature.

  • You may also want to suggest further research or comment on things that it was not possible for you to discuss in the paper.

    • This paper will discuss the design, fabrication and testing of a uniform flow field micromixer to be used for the production of nanoparticles.

Assignment 3
Assignment #3

  • Due Monday, April 27

    • Synthesis paper – 4 to 6 double space pages

    • 5-7 minute presentation – alphabetical order

  • See synthesis paper details in syllabus

    • Perform keyword searches – at least 20 papers

    • Evaluate each paper

      • Short summary of what it is about (sentence or two)

      • What did you learn that the reader should know i.e. that shapes your research question or thesis?

    • Write synthesis

  • Expected outline (write like it is the front of a manuscript)

    • Upfront paragraph(s) provide the context for the lit review

    • Organize literature into paragraphs (see organization slide)

    • Summary

      • If background  Why is your topic important?

      • If relevance  What is a relevant research question?

      • If thesis-drive  What are the technical gaps? What is your thesis?