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How to Synthesize Information from Different Sources

December 17, 2020| Category: Writing Tips

When you need to write a literature review for a sophisticated academic project like a research paper or a dissertation, you are supposed to go beyond summarizing the articles and other types of sources. Instead, you need to organize your findings into a simple unit synthesizing them. This means that you need to combine your sources focusing on the key similarities and differences in the approaches taken by scholars. The primary purpose of your literature review is to make a point indicating what perspectives of the research topic still need investigation. At a basic level, you will need to look for the essential similarities and differences in the sources. However, to receive a good grade for the paper, it is necessary to do a few more things to convince the tutor that the study has theoretical and practical value.

Below, you will find four main steps helping you synthesize information from the sources:

  • Collect as many sources relevant to your topic as possible and study them carefully;
  • Write an outline;
  • Write topic sentences and paragraphs indicating the important points;
  • Edit your text carefully.

Now, let us discuss these stages in detail.

  1. Collecting sources.

To write a good-looking literature review, you need to collect many academic sources pertaining to your topic. You may use an online database and find all the books, articles, and other publications that will help you obtain necessary information. Once you have all the sources, you will need to study them, thoroughly making notes about the most valuable points. The best way to synthesize your findings is to put them into a table. A table will help you structure and categorize your main findings along with their authors. For instance, you may write the titles of your sources in one row and identify the main points discussed in them in another one. For each study, you will need to create a brief summary that will later become a basis for your literature review. This technique will allow you to group your sources in accordance with their key similarities and differences.

  1. Outlining your structure.

Now, when you have studied all of the sources collected, you are probably aware of their main connections and differences. The next step will be to put these sources together with the help of an outline. The outline will help you define the order in which your sources will be analyzed. For a shorter paper, you may write simple outlines whereas lengthy projects require more complex outlines with the main headings and subheadings. In fact, there are many different approaches to writing outlines for literature reviews. You need to pick up the one that is the most convenient for you and follow it.

If your sources cover a broad time period, most probably, their authors had different approaches to discussing the topic. As such, we highly recommend you organize your discussion chronologically, as it will help your reader understand how the theories evolved over time. It does not mean that you should analyze your sources starting from the oldest one. It just means that you will need to group your sources in accordance with the way the authors have approached the topic.

If your sources cover different topics, you will need to group them thematically. This means that you will need to group your sources based on the themes they cover.

In case you are reviewing the sources that indicate a wide range of research methods, you will need to synthesize them methodologically. According to this technique, you will need to group your sources in accordance with the methods used by scholars.

If your sources are based on different schools of thought, you may group them together theoretically. It means that you will need to organize your sources in accordance with the theories applied by researchers.

No matter what way of synthesizing sources you will choose, you should follow the latest academic writing criteria making your paper clear, concise, and comprehensive.

  1. Writing topic sentences.

What makes a synthesis paper different from a summary is that it combines various academic sources. The main difficulty experienced by those who are working on a synthesis paper is the necessity to condense the content of the whole paragraph, in which different approaches and theories are discussed, into one topic sentence. However, you should understand that each paragraph in your synthesis paper should begin with a topic sentence that signals what is the entire paragraph about. Basically, a topic sentence is just a summary of the content of the whole paragraph. For instance, you may write:

“Early research focused only on …”

To make your synthesis paper look better, you may relate the topic sentence of each paragraph to the last sentences of the previous paragraphs:

“Whereas recent research has made an attempt to solve the problem, some of these studies have methodological flaws that reduce their validity.”

You should not underestimate the importance of topic sentences since they are necessary for making the text clear and coherent identifying the connections between the articles you are discussing.

When you need to use textual evidence to back up your arguments, it is highly recommended to avoid direct quoting. By using your own words, you will show that you know what the author of the source is talking about. Do not even try to cover all points discussed in the sources. When studying your articles, you need to pick up the most credible, accurate, and relevant data.

  1. Editing your synthesis paper.

Once you are done with writing your synthesis paper, you will need to double check if it is free from awkward statements, logical fallacies, and grammatical flaws. Thus, we highly recommend you dedicate enough time to the thorough revision process and fixing mistakes compromising the paper’s quality.

Use Our Synthesis Paper Checklist

  • Did I collect relevant and accurate sources?
  • Did I introduce my sources from different perspectives?
  • Did I mention the most relevant findings skipping the information that was not necessary?
  • Did I discuss all the important similarities and differences between the sources I have collected?
  • Did I organize my paragraphs well? Are there appropriate topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph?
  • Do I cover an important idea in my paper?
  • Are there logical transitions between my paragraphs?

If you want to provide an impressive synthesis paper, you should answer “Yes” to all of these questions. All in all, we assure you that synthesizing academic sources won’t be a difficult task for you if you follow the guidelines and suggestions provided in our article.

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