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Research Guide: Writing Process

This guide has been created to provide quick access to resources that support the research process.

The Writing Process

Writing a college paper is a process that involves several steps. Writing a research paper requires that you find several sources of information on a topic, read them very carefully, and combine or synthesize them in a meaningful support your thesis or the idea that you are going to prove. 

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Steps in the Writing Process

What is Synthesis Writing?

Synthesis writing involves carefully reading several sources (journal articles, books, etc.) on a topic, and identifying similar as well as contradictory ideas in each source. New ideas on the topic are merged with your prior knowledge of the topic and presented in your research paper in your own voice. Each paragraph of your paper will contain multiple sources and citations, as well as your own ideas (Ashford University, n.d.).

What Synthesis Writing Is Not

When you synthesize, you do not rely on a single source of information; nor do you string together summaries of one article after another. You do not cut and paste segments of several articles together to form a paper. True synthesis writing is similar to making a fruit smoothie; individual pieces of fruit are blended together to form a new concoction (University of Illinois, 2008).

Strategies for Synthesizing Information

As you carefully read and analyze each of your sources, it is important to take notes and/or highlight the important points that each author is making. A chart or “synthesis matrix” (Ashford University, n.d.) is also useful for keeping you organized. You can record the main themes of each source as well as the information needed for your citations. As you read, ask yourself:

  • Do any authors disagree with another author?
  • Does one author extend the research of another author?
  • Do all the authors agree?
  • Does any author raise new questions or ideas about the topic? (Ashford University, n.d.)

Make sure that you record the information necessary to cite your sources.

One Strategy for Synthesizing Information  

Analyzing & Evaluating Information 

  • Begin by ensuring that you have all the information necessary to cite your sources.
  • Highlight the main facts, concepts and ideas in each of your sources. Read carefully through the article, and highlight only the words or ideas that are meaningful to you, and that you could explain or describe to someone else.
  • If you cannot understand an article, do not discard it. Come back to it later after you have read other sources and thought about      your topic. When you learn something new, you need to connect the new idea to something you already know.
  • As you read more articles, you learn more about the subject; as you put information together from several articles, you begin to see the big picture.
  • The amount of information in each article differs from the parts of the article that are relevant to your research. Your highlights will help you find the information you want to refer back to, to re-read, or to create a citation.
  • For long academic articles, read the abstract, introduction, and conclusion. Then go back and re-read the article; read the heading and first paragraph of each section of the article. Once you understand the “general story of the article”, go back and read it again for details.
  • On post-it notes, write down the highlighted parts of each article. The highlighted parts allow you to review the key points of the article. Use a different color post-it for each article, or add a symbol or colored mark so that you will know which article the post-it note represents (Deer Valley Unified School District, n.d.).

Analyzing, Synthesizing & Organizing Information

  • Begin clustering the post-it notes. This is a visual way for you to determine which clusters contain a lot of information, and which contain a smaller amount of information. Name each cluster, ensuring that the name fits every post-it in the cluster.
  • If you have clusters containing a lot of post-it notes or information, you may need to narrow your original topic to one of the cluster topics. For those clusters with only one or two post-it notes, you may want to drop these minor aspects of the subject, or return to the library to find more information on these topics.
  • Now you are ready to write the paper in your own voice. Pull together all the information you have gathered in your readings and make them your own. Remember to give credit to the authors of the sources you used in your paper (Deer Valley Unified School District, n.d.).

In the example (below), note that the author has incorporated three sources into this excerpt of the research paper - the writings of Goldstein, Lapidoth and Falk.

Example of Synthesis Writing

As the demographics in Europe shift, problems may arise as the wealthy members of the European Union (EU) try to absorb poorer nations (Goldstein, 2005). Lapidoth (1992) writes that a backlash to these pressures and a resurgence of nationalism may cause a fragmentation of the European Union, and a return to the “classic connotation” (p. 345) of the nation state. Conversely, if the European Union is successful, other regions in Asia, Africa and Latin America may be tempted to emulate its example (Falk, 1999).

The European Union (EU) is still evolving and the verdict is out on whether it will ultimately prove successful. Since the formation of the EU, many poorer countries have clamored to join the union, and immigration to the west has increased as people look for a better life. As of 2004, the EU has expanded from 15 to 25 nations with several other countries expressing an interest in joining (Goldstein, 2005).

(Downs-Jones Library, 2012)

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