What is synthesising?

time to complete: 20 minutes

In academic writing It is important that you do not just list and describe a lot of individual studies. Instead, you should try to compare and contrast approaches, perspectives and viewpoints. This is particularly useful when writing a literature review. 

Synthesising involves grouping sources based on similarities and differences. 

As well as grouping writers, you may choose to group sources based on theory, ideas, research design, findings, interpretations, limitations and other criteria.

Source one

Source two

Original writing that combines ideas from Source 1 and Source 2 and uses paraphrasing and summarising

Synthesising: examples

Task: Look at the examples of synthesising and do the tasks to check that you understand synthesising.

Example 1

Hold-up theories proposed by Sharpe (1990), Rajan (1992), von Thadden (2004) and Kim et al. (2012) imply an alternative life-cycle profile for financing costs. In a two-period framework, the competition between banks prompts them to offer low borrowing rates to new firms in the first period.

Adapted from Ylhäinen (2017)

Example 2

First, feminist scholars such as Massey (1991) and McDowell (1983) established an analytical framework focused on the gender dimensions of cities, while other scholars revitalized longstanding interest in ethnicity, race and class in urban contexts (see, for example, Jackson, 1989; Waldinger and Bozorgmehr, 1996). Both of these lines of inquiry provided insights into neighborhood development and displacement, and on the different ways in which socially differentiated classes of people are also spatially sorted in cities.

Adapted from Scott & Storper (2014)