While analysis usually considers one text at a time, synthesis considers multiple, related texts. Rather than looking at one text’s purpose, construction, and contents, you look at several texts’ purposes, construction, and contents. What do these texts say about their shared topic? Where do they agree and disagree? Do they neglect or omit a perspective or idea?

When conducting a synthesis, you are not only looking for similarities and differences in multiple sources, but you are looking for what these sources say cumulatively. Synthesizing recent sources on a particular topic is how you answer this question: What is the current state of the research on this topic? A good way to begin is to document these differences and similarities in a synthesis matrix. A synthesis matrix will help you to locate and identify areas where sources overlap or differ, thus helping you to see what the current research is saying about the topic.

A good way to ensure you are synthesizing your sources is to be sure each topic you introduce is supported by two or more sources. If you locate an interesting point that only one text seems to make, you would still need to discuss how other texts are not discussing this specific point.

Applying Research Skills

While we stated what makes a credible review when discussing analysis, how do you determine the overall rating of an item you are interested in purchasing from multiple reviews? You synthesize these reviews to look for agreements, disagreements, and omissions.

If most of the reviews seem to point to the same flaw in the item, you will most likely accept this flaw as being real and credible. However, if some reviews reveal this flaw, while others claim this flaw does not exist, you will seek to find more reviews to try and find a consensus. After all, you want to be sure you know what you are buying.

Eventually, you will weigh the evidence from multiple reviews and rely on those you deem credible to make your decision. Basically, if you use reviews to determine your purchasing behavior, you are already analyzing and synthesizing texts.