When you are writing your essay, you will be developing your point of view (thesis) through each body paragraph you write. Everything you have to say must be supported with evidence from a range of sources. Your real skill as a writer will be to integrate your ideas and your backup evidence so that they flow seamlessly and convincingly through your essay. Synthesising is a specialised skill whereby you summarise similar ideas from more than one source of information.
About balancing evidence in your writing
Balancing evidence means that you will weave together information from different sources into your body paragraph. There are three strategies you can use to present evidence in your essay: paraphrasing, summarising (which includes synthesising) and direct quoting. As your assignment has been set to challenge you to investigate, interpret and use research on a topic, your essay will need to be a balance of evidence from others’ information and your personal opinion and experience.
Use the slider on the seesaw in Exercise 1 to get an idea of the consequences of using other people’s ideas TOO much, OR using your own ideas ONLY without backup from authoritative sources.
Move the slider button to see how essay writing needs to balance information sources.
Synthesising evidence in a paragraph
Synthesising is a complex skill that you use to develop your body paragraphs. It requires you to draw together your ideas, supported by the similar and sometimes contradictory ideas of others. Let’s consider the essay topic:
Discuss why assignment essays are common assessment tasks in undergraduate tertiary coursework, and evaluate the effectiveness of assignments as an avenue for learning.
A paragraph from this question may deal with the advantages of assignments over examinations.
This demonstration shows you how to develop a notetaking system for a paragraph on the topic of exams versus assignments. The notetaking system helps you to record and synthesise evidence from a number of sources.
Exercise 2 demonstrates that you can synthesise information that is common to authors. Synthesising evidence makes your writing more powerful as you are demonstrating that an idea is supported by a number of authorities:
- students needing feedback (Jones et al., 2004, pp. 36-37; Peters, 2008, p. 79)
- effect of exams on students ( Peters, 2008, p. 79; Wonderland University, 2006)
- subject discourse (Jones et al., 2004, pp. 36-37; Peters, 2008, p. 79; Wonderland University, 2006)
RULE: When you are citing several authors at once IN-TEXT, you should present the author’s names alphabetically, and each reference is separated by a semicolon (;). Generally, the page or paragraph numbers are not required except for direct quotes.
The following annotated paragraph has been written from the set of notes and synthesising activities in Exercise 2:
Steps for synthesising
The techniques for successful synthesising may be picked up quickly if you know a few strategies. You can use a step-by-step approach. The order of each step is fairly intuitive. Try to put the following six steps in the correct order.
Drag the steps for synthesising into the correct order.
Don’t do this!
- Don’t think of individual authors all of the time. Consider your case from a ‘multiple author’ perspective. This will help your argument to carry more weight.
- Don’t leave out your notetaking activity. Once you have your notes, it’s much easier to synthesise your information with a correct match to your authors.