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The Writer’s Reference Book


Module 20 – Synthesis – Hint Sheet

Synthesis involves incorporating information from one or more sources into an essay or report.

There are four basic steps in the process.

  • Read the original articles to make sure you thoroughly understand the information and ideas presented there. (If you are using information from your own experience, make a detailed list.) To make sure you understand the information, instructors will often require you to summarize the original source (see Module 22 on Summary). However, a summary does not use the skill of synthesis since a summary is simply a list of the main ideas in your own words. A summary does not pull together information, which is what synthesis does.
  • Focus on one particular aspect to handle. For most assignments,you will have a wide choice of ideas to develop. For example, if the instructor gives you two original articles on the unification of East and West Germany, you have a choice of writing about problems involved in unification, the reasons for unification, or the probable consequences of unification. You might even come up with other appropriate ways to handle the topic.
  • Select the facts and ideas from the sources that “prove” or develop the idea about the topic that you want to focus on. Once you have selected the focus for your essay, you will probably want to reread the original sources to help you select information that you can use in your essay. For example, if you decided to write on the reasons for unification of East and West Germany, you will want to reexamine the two articles to look for reasons listed there. There will be a lot of information in the articles that you can't use in your essay, but that’s all right. Just select the information that fits your focus.
  • Organize the information in any logical manner. There are so many possible ways to organize information that there are few guidelines to follow. If you need help organizing your information, stop by the Writing Center (Peck 1419) to speak to a tutor.

Write the essay as you would any other essay. However, as you provide support for your ideas, you will use evidence gleaned from the articles you read. Unless instructed otherwise, be sure to indicate the source of this support in your essay, so that the reader can tell when you used information from your sources. If you don't list a source, the reader can assume that the ideas are your own.

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