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Creative Writing

Designed for creative writing students, this guide takes you through the Library’s resources to improve your research.
Synthesis in Research

What is Synthesis?

Here are some ways to think about synthesis:

Synthesis blends claims, evidence, and your unique insights to create a strong, unified paragraph. Assertions act as the threads, evidence adds texture, and your commentary weaves them together, revealing the connections and why they matter.

Beyond the sum of its parts: Synthesis isn't just adding one and one. It's recognizing how multiple sources, through their connections and relationships, create a deeper understanding than any single one could achieve.

Synthesis isn't just about what sources say, it's about how they say it. By digging into assumptions, interpretations, and even speculations, you uncover hidden connections and build a more nuanced picture.

Whereas analyzing involves dismantling a whole to understand its parts and their relationships, synthesizing involves collecting diverse parts and weaving them together to form a novel whole. Reading is an automatic synthesis process, where we connect incoming information with our existing knowledge, constructing a new, expanded "whole" of our understanding in the subject area.

You've been doing synthesis for a long time, the key now is being aware and organized in the process.

The 'How-to' of Synthesis

To Start:

  • Sharpen your research direction: Be clear about your main objective. This guides your reading and analysis to make the most of your time.
  • Build a strong foundation: Use trusted sources like peer-reviewed journals, academic books, and reputable websites. Diverse sources add strength and credibility to your research.

Then Organize your Research:

  • Dig deep and connect the dots: While reading, highlight key ideas, arguments, and evidence. Mark potential links between sources, like overlaps or contrasting arguments.
  • Organize ideas by neighborhood: Group sources with similar themes or angles on your topic. This will show you where sources agree or clash, helping you build a nuanced understanding.
  • Build a mind map of your research: Create a table of key themes, listing key points from each source and how they connect. This visual map can reveal patterns and identify any missing pieces in your research.

Finally, Build your synthesis:

  • Lay out the groundwork: Kick off each section with a clear claim or theme to guide your analysis.
  • Weave sources together: Briefly explain what each source brings to the table, smoothly connecting their ideas with transitions and language.
  • Embrace the debate: Don't tiptoe around differences. Point out where sources agree or clash, and explore possible reasons for these discrepancies.
  • Dig deeper than surface facts: Don't just parrot findings. Explain what they mean and how they impact your topic.
  • Add your voice to the mix: Go beyond reporting. Analyze, evaluate, and draw conclusions based on your synthesis. What does this research tell us?

Tips & Tricks:

  • Let the evidence do the talking: Back up your claims with concrete details, quotes, and examples from your sources. No need for personal opinions, just let the facts speak for themselves.
  • Play fair with opposing views: Be objective and present different perspectives without showing favoritism. Even if you disagree, let readers see the other side of the coin.
  • Give credit where credit is due: Make sure your sources get the recognition they deserve with proper citations, following your chosen style guide consistently.
  • Polish your masterpiece: Take some time to revise and proofread your work. Ensure your arguments are crystal clear, concise, and well-supported by the evidence.
  • Embrace the growth mindset: Remember, research and synthesis are a journey, not a destination. Keep refining your analysis as you learn more and encounter new information. The more you explore, the deeper your understanding will become.
Types of Synthesis


Demonstrates how two or more sources agree with one another.


The collaborative nature of writing tutorials has been discussed by scholars like Andrea Lunsford (1991) and Stephen North (1984). In these essays, they explore the usefulness and the complexities of collaboration between tutors and students in writing center contexts.


Demonstrates how two or more sources support a main point in different ways.


While some scholars like Berlin (1987) have primarily placed their focus on the histories of large, famous universities, other scholars like Yahner and Murdick (1991) have found value in connecting their local histories to contrast or highlight trends found in bigger-name universities.


Demonstrates how one source builds on the idea of another.


Although North’s (1984) essay is fundamental to many writing centers today, Lunsford (1991) takes his ideas a step further by identifying different writing center models and also expanding North’s ideas on how writing centers can help students become better writers.


Demonstrates how one source discusses the effects of another source’s ideas.


While Healy (2001) notes the concerns of having primarily email appointments in writing centers, he also notes that constraints like funding, resources, and time affect how online resources are formed. For writing centers, email is the most economical and practical option for those wanting to offer online services but cannot dedicate the time or money to other online tutoring methods. As a result, in Neaderheiser and Wolfe’s (2009) reveals that of all the online options available in higher education, over 91% of institutions utilize online tutoring through email, meaning these constraints significantly affect the types of services writing centers offer.

[Taken from University of Illinois, "Synthesizing Research"]

Synthesis Matrix for Note-taking

The Writing Center at University of Arizona showcases how to create and use a synthesis matrix when reading sources and taking notes. It is a great, organized way to synthesize your research.

You can find it here.

Creativity in Research

Creativity in researching begins with developing a thorough understanding of your research topic; this is fundamental to streamlining the process and enriching your findings. This entails delving into its intricacies—exploring both similarities and divergences with related subject areas. Consider the most appropriate sources (and types of sources) for your study, critically engaging with all perspectives, and acknowledging the complex interplay between its positives, negatives, and broader connections.

Embrace interdisciplinary exploration. Delve deeper through transdisciplinary analysis, venturing beyond the immediate field to parallel professions and diverse academic arenas. Consider comparative studies from other cultural contexts to add fresh perspectives.

For example, researching rule changes in the NFL demands a nuanced approach. One might investigate the link to Traumatic Brain Injury, analyze case studies of impacted players, and even examine rule adjustments in other sports, drawing insights from their rationale and outcomes.

Remember, librarians are invaluable partners in this process. Their expertise in creative thinking and resource navigation can unlock a wealth of information, guiding you towards fruitful discoveries.