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The Best Way to Synthesize Academic Research


The goal of writing an academic paper is to fill in the gaps in the literature and demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of the subject. This implies that writing a literature review or essay entails not only summarizing the materials you've read, but also expertly synthesizing the literature to illustrate how it all fits together in the way you've imagined.

When you synthesize, you start with a collection of disparate components and look for connections to put them together to form a new complete meaning. It is different from a summary, where you present the most critical information from one source before moving on to describe another source and another. In the end, you're left with a succession of individual paragraphs, with no ties to each other. On the other hand, when you synthesize, to make an overall argument in your work, you combine the concepts and conclusions of numerous sources that relate with each other and make sense together.

Stage 1: Organizing the sources

Initially, you will most likely be starting from scratch, examining the resources that currently exist. After browsing over the articles, you settle on the course you want to take for your paper and select the best sources to help you construct and support your arguments. Bear in mind that when it comes to material quality, you should be cautious. You must be able to read and evaluate the quality of a text before deciding whether or not to include it in a discussion.

After you've roughly selected the key relevant sources on which you will be relying, you'll go about categorizing them. At the very least, you search for the same meanings and variances in the materials that you've gone through. You can start by sketching your main points and aligning the sources according to which ones support and which ones dispute them. Similarly, you may highlight each source's main ideas as well as the findings of their analysis or empirical study.

You might as well distinguish between primary and secondary sources. The resources that contain the original stories or records are referred to as primary sources. While a secondary source is a narrative that has been recounted and is not firsthand. The literary analysis that is based on the source materials is an example of this. When synthesizing, it is a good idea to mix these sources with primary data.

Stage 2: Forming the outline

At this point, you'll work on a preliminary overview of the framework which will include the main sections you wish to outline. Depending on the topic at hand and the type of literature, there are a number of ways to execute it. The rough idea about the key two or three sections of the main body would be the starting point for a shorter paper, while the outline of the main chapters before they are split into subchapters would be the starting point for a longer one.

In this part, you can begin sketching out your ideas based on the elements of the sources that you find most relevant and need to mention in your essay. There are various elements you can choose from to organize your bibliography after establishing what overall conclusions you can make about the topic as a whole, based on the findings of the research. For starters, you can order your approach chronologically in case you're covering a long period of time. Alternatively, if you want to provide worldwide coverage, you may do so by dividing the scope into regions or countries. If you have several studies with the same conclusion, you might wish to categorize them by the methodology they employed rather than the outcome.

Another strategy that can work for practically any type of research is thematic division. You detect the same patterns in the literature you're working on and define the pivotal themes for you to use. In this method, articles can be based on the themes you choose to illustrate how the literature approaches them. The way you define the themes is entirely up to your perspective. As you narrow down the topic of your work, you can use the groupings of supporting concepts you noticed in the data to filter it down to the themes you want to employ, in whatever order you prefer.

Stage 3: Working on the main body

Keep in mind that each paragraph focuses on a single concept while including references that relate to that subject. A paragraph should not be excessively lengthy or overly short. Since each paragraph should include a few distinct sources, a brief paragraph indicates that you did not properly detail and explain the sources. When deciding on a theme, make sure it isn't too wide or too narrow, as the latter might result in a short paragraph with a poorly developed idea.

Each paragraph may begin with an introductory phrase that describes the topic of the paragraph. This is called a topic sentence. Such phrases can look something like:

  • "Generally, the academic literature clearly outlines that X comes with Y patterns"
  • "For a more focused emphasis, studies discuss a specific set of strategies concerning X"
  • "Research into the reasons for X has gained momentum in the literature during the past several years"

By beginning with a succinct and concise introductory statement, you ensure that your reader understands what the paragraph will be about. It's also crucial to maintain the flow throughout the content so that the paragraphs are contextually related and the paper's logic isn't broken.

Examples of items you might want to incorporate in a single paragraph could be the following:

  • Paraphrases
  • Summaries
  • Quotations

When you've figured out what the paragraph's main point is, you may compare and contrast different perspectives on those themes from your sources, using the aforementioned elements as needed. This presents a unit of support for your theme. Remember that each supporting group includes your thoughts, opinions, and responses to the texts in that group.

Don't strive to cover everything from the source you are referencing as it will only blur the focus of your research and merely produce additional unneeded material for you to discard at a later stage of editing. To make this easier, you may assess the text by breaking it down into its constituent pieces. After that, you examine the segmented sections and choose the ones that are pertinent to your topic, discarding the others. The trick to synthesizing correctly is to pick the most pertinent data to provide your reader with a comprehensive overall picture.

Stage 4: Editing and reformulating

The editing stage may be one of the most crucial, as you examine the paper from the ending point, taking into account all of the materials you've read and the research you've produced thus far. Here you should be asking yourself if you were able to completely communicate the idea you intended with the paper you wrote.

Editing to synthesize does not mean simply keeping relevant quotations in an essay; rather, concepts from many readings must be carefully evaluated and connected with each other and your observations, thoughts, and arguments. Make sure your paragraphs don't give separate summaries of articles with no specific elements specified, as this fails to connect their themes and does not showcase how those ideas relate to your own.

If you see that the outline isn't following the logical sequence you've created, rewrite it. as you organize your information in a logical structure, edit or modify the paragraphs that do not meet the following criteria:

  • Provides a detailed perspective
  • Presents more than a single source's information
  • Makes your voice clear
  • Focuses around a particular idea or a concept
  • Follows the logical order you've set
  • Presents the analysis of the source, rather than the summary
  • Is directly related to your study subject or question

To draw to the conclusion, reading and writing to synthesize, in the end, is more than simply collecting data and incorporating it into an essay, research or other forms of written material. Instead, you utilize the data you discover to assist you to come up with and supporting your personal views. Your work will be just a summarization of previous work unless you share your opinion on referenced materials. As a result, it's critical to offer your perspective.

While working on the paper, sorting through the materials may appear to be a perplexing maze, but it all depends on how you model it all around you. Just keep in mind that synthesizing textual material entails combining ideas and theories from diverse sources into a single new concept. There is no clear distinction between the stages we've described since they tend to blend together when you redefine and edit the text during the writing process.

One fundamental principle is that synthesizing should always be built around your insights and that you should always express your ideas concerning the data from each article that you've utilized. This is your contribution to the debate.

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