Synthesizing Research

When combining another author’s ideas with your own, we have talked about how using the can help make sure your points are being adequately argued (if you have not read our handout on the evidence cycle, check it out!). Synthesis takes assertions (statements that describe your claim), evidence (facts and proof from outside sources), and commentary (your connections to why the evidence supports your claim), and blends these processes together to make a cohesive paragraph.

In other words, synthesis encompasses several aspects:

  • It is the process of integrating support from more than one source for one idea/argument while also identifying how sources are related to each other and to your main idea.
  • It is an acknowledgment of how the source material from several sources address the same question/research topic.
  • It is the identification of how important factors (assumptions, interpretations of results, theories, hypothesis, speculations, etc.) relate between separate sources.

TIP: It’s a fruit smoothie!

Think of synthesis as a fruit smoothie that you are creating in your paper. You will have unique parts and flavors in your writing that you will need to blend together to make one tasty, unified drink!

Why synthesis is important

  • Synthesis integrates information from multiple sources, which shows that you have done the necessary research to engage with a topic more fully.
  • Research involves incorporating many sources to understand and/or answer a research question, and discovering these connections between the sources helps you better analyze and understand the conversations surrounding your topic.
  • Successful synthesis creates links between your ideas helping your paper “flow” and connect better.
  • Synthesis prevents your papers from looking like a list of copied and pasted sources from various authors.
  • Synthesis is a higher order process in writing—this is the area where you as a writer get to shine and show your audience your reasoning.

Types of Synthesis

Similarity

Demonstrates how two or more sources agree with one another.

Example:

The collaborative nature of writing tutorials has been discussed by scholars like Andrea Lunsford (1991) and Stephen North (1984). In these essays, they explore the usefulness and the complexities of collaboration between tutors and students in writing center contexts.

Contrast

Demonstrates how two or more sources support a main point in different ways.

Example:

While some scholars like Berlin (1987) have primarily placed their focus on the histories of large, famous universities, other scholars like Yahner and Murdick (1991) have found value in connecting their local histories to contrast or highlight trends found in bigger-name universities.

Accumulation

Demonstrates how one source builds on the idea of another.

Example:

Although North’s (1984) essay is fundamental to many writing centers today, Lunsford (1991) takes his ideas a step further by identifying different writing center models and also expanding North’s ideas on how writing centers can help students become better writers.

Causation

Demonstrates how one source discusses the effects of another source’s ideas.

Example:

While Healy (2001) notes the concerns of having primarily email appointments in writing centers, he also notes that constraints like funding, resources, and time affect how online resources are formed. For writing centers, email is the most economical and practical option for those wanting to offer online services but cannot dedicate the time or money to other online tutoring methods. As a result, in Neaderheiser and Wolfe’s (2009) reveals that of all the online options available in higher education, over 91% of institutions utilize online tutoring through email, meaning these constraints significantly affect the types of services writing centers offer.

Discussing Specific Source Ideas/Arguments

To debate with clarity and precision, you may need to incorporate a quote into your statement. Using can help you to thoroughly introduce your quotes so that they fit in to your paragraph and your argument. Remember that you need to use the to bridge between your ideas and outside source material.

References

Berlin, J. (1987). Rhetoric and reality: Writing instruction in American colleges, 1900-1985. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Boquet, E.H. (2001). “Our little secret”: A history of writing centers, pre- to open admissions. In R.W. Barnett & J.S. Blumner (Eds.), The Allyn and Bacon guide to writing center theory and practice (pp. 42-60). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Carino, P. (1995). Early writing centers: Toward a history. The Writing Center Journal, 15(2), 103-15.

Healy, D. (2001). From place to space: Perceptual and administrative issues in the online writing center. In R.W. Barnett & J.S. Blumner (Eds.), The Allyn and Bacon guide to writing center theory and practice (pp. 541-554). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Lunsford, A. (1991). Collaboration, control, and the idea of the writing center. The Writing Center Journal, 12(1), 310-75.

Neaderheiser, S. & Wolfe, J. (2009). Between technological endorsement and resistance: The state of online writing centers. The Writing Center Journal. 29(1), 49-75.

North, S. (1984). The idea of a writing center. College English, 45(5), 433-446.

Yahner, W. & Murdick, W. (1991). The evolution of a writing center: 1972-1990. Writing Center Journal, 11(2), 13-28.