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WRT 110/105 Introduction to College Writing (Prof. Jarvis)

Writing 110/105 - Introduction to College Writing, taught by Professor Jarvis

Going Beyond "Using Info"

What is "Synthesizing Info"?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines synthesis as: "the composition or combination of parts or elements so as to form a whole"; "the combining of often diverse conceptions into a coherent whole"

 

When you synthesize while writing a paper, you are combining the separate thoughts and ideas of the authors of your sources with your own thoughts and ideas. This is what makes a well-written, balanced research paper. A paper that is nothing but your own thoughts and ideas, unsupported by any other sources, is an opinion paper - not a research paper.

On the other hand, a paper that is just citations, with no thoughts, ideas, or new perspectives of your own is just a summary of your sources. This type of paper, in which you organize and summarize individual sources, is common in high school (book reports, etc.). In college-level research you will be expected to start synthesizing resources with your own thoughts, balancing your views with the views of others to create new perspectives on your research topics.

How do I synthesize?

The following steps can help you synthesize resources with your own ideas in your writing:

  1. The first step to synthesizing your resources is to read them critically and take detailed notes. Make a note of the themes, arguments, and conclusions the author(s) draw, and any important or unique ideas. If it is a research article, also make note of their methodology and the populations studied. Do this for each of your resources. Make sure to take down the page number (if applicable) when taking notes, so you can cite passages later.
  2. Once you've read and taken notes on your sources, take a step back and look at the larger picture. Think of the common themes that have emerged as you've read broadly about your topic. How do each of your sources relate to those themes? Keep in mind that not every source may address each of your identified themes. Where are the authors in agreement? Where do they differ? If you are looking at research articles, do they all use the same methodology or no? Do they all study the same populations, and are there any gaps in the groups being studied? For this step, it can be useful to organize your thoughts using a matrix or chart. For an example, take a look at this matrix by Ashford University.
  3. When you begin to write your paper, organize your argument by your themes, not by individual authors. Instead of summarizing your sources individually, think about the larger conversation they (and now you) are a part of. Speak to your identified themes, and how each of your sources relates to that theme and has contributed to that part of the conversation. Then, add your own views. If there are holes in the arguments made by your sources, or gaps in the research, this is your chance to address them from your own perspective.

BEAM: What material can various sources give me?

The first step to successfully synthesizing information from other sources into your own papers is to understand what kinds of information you can get from other sources and how they can be used to support your thesis or argument.

BEAM (Background, Evidence, Argument, Method) provides a way to help students categorize what kinds of information their research sources can give them.

BEAM: Infographic

 

BEAM Infographic: Text Version

 

What might the work of others add to my "story?"

Background:

  • topic overviews
  • known facts of an event
  • definitions for important, uncommon terms

Evidence:

  • statistics...
  • wording...
  • facts...
  • ...that you can use to prove a point or closely analyze

Argument:

  • expert opinions that support your view
  • expert opinions that you can refute

Method:

  • tests or procedures to use or critique
  • questions others raise to address

Adapted from: Bizup, Joseph. "BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing." Rhetoric Review. 27.1 (2008): 72-86.

Ideas for where to get "BEAM" info

Purpose Source Types to Consider
Background Encyclopedias, books
Evidence Films, articles, lab results, government websites, case studies
Argument Articles, books
Method/Technique Course readings, textbooks, article
 
   

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