Research synthesis is sometimes viewed as an end point; an accumulation of scientists' knowledge about a topic. But it's really a sort of way-station in a continuing investigation of a field. It allows science to take stock of what is known in order to identify the most promising directions for future research. This is the generative role for research synthesis.
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Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2009). Testing theories and conducting research from meta-analytic syntheses. In H. Cooper, L. Hedges, & J. Valentine (Eds.), Handbook of research synthesis (2nd ed, pp. 455-472). New York: Russell Sage.
Wood, W., & Christensen, P. N. (2003). Quantitative research synthesis across studies, paradigms, and time. In C. Sansone, C. C. Morf, & A. T. Panter (Eds.), Handbook of methods in social psychology (pp. 335-356). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. [request paper]