Skip to main content

Synthesis in Research: Home

You've found a bunch of great sources for your research project. Now what?

An important step between researching and writing (or creating) is organizing your notes so that you form connections between your sources and your own thoughts and ideas

What is Synthesis? Synthesis is a form of analysis related to comparison and contrast, classification and division. On a basic level, synthesis involves bringing together two or more sources, looking for themes in each. In synthesis, you search for the links between various materials in order to make your point. Most advanced academic writing relies heavily on synthesis.

In terms of synthesizing and creating, an information literate student:

  • Selects appropriate information to synthesize from multiple sources
  • Communicate effectively using appropriate writing styles in a variety of formats

The links and videos below will help you to better understand the process of synthesizing information, and will give you tips on effective note-taking and organization. 

A visualization of synthesis

Pretend you are working with five sources for an essay, as represented by the five colored dots below.  

Sources not synthesized

Notice how there are no connections between the sources; the five sources are simply listed in some arbitrary order. What if you need to synethesize the sources, though? You can start synthesising by noting the similarities and differences between the sources and mapping them accordingly.

Sources sythensized

Perhaps you noticed that A (blue), B (yellow), and C (pink) make similar arguments, so they are grouped together. You also noticed that D (red) and B (yellow) share a similar methodology, so they are linked together. But perhaps D (red) does not make the same argument as B (yellow), A (blue), and C (pink). And E (green) is completely out there on his own! So you can now see that there are several possibilities for synthesizing these sources. 

 

The gray ring around these sources represents the synthesized claims that you can make. For instance, you might claim, "While multiple scholars agree that X, there is no overall consensus on this issue." Or you may claim, "Conflicting methodologies among research creates gaps in the research on X.