Why and how we synthesise

time to complete: 5-10 minutes

Why do we use synthesis in academic writing?

Some key reasons are: 

  • To demonstrate significant relationships between the sources.
  • To identify similarities and differences between the sources
  • To group and present similar ideas or contrasting ideas.

Synthesizing allows you to demonstrate your critical thinking in your writing. By identifying similarities and differences between theories, methods, studies, findings, etc. and making these explicit to the reader, you are presenting ideas in relation to a wider context and in a more complex manner.

Check Bloom’s Taxonomy below and notice how concepts such as organise, relate, compare, contrast and distinguish are considered higher level thinking skills, compared to list, state, describe, etc. You can hover over the question marks to learn more about each level. 

What do we need to consider when we are synthesising?

Here are a few things worth considering: 

  • Do the authors agree?
  • Do the authors disagree?
  • Do the authors agree on one point but disagree on another?
  • Does one author develop an idea even more?
  • Do you have a number of authors all with contrasting views?

Synthesis checklist