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WRITING / Synthesis

Synthesis of Sources

What is synthesis?

Synthesis is an academic writing skill of combining two or more sources into your academic writing in a meaningful and analytical way. Synthesis does not focus on a single author (or academic source), it is more complex and draws on insights from a range of literature (or academic sources) to identify both similar and contradictory ideas with a view to establishing links, tensions and ‘threads’ to support your argument. It shows the reader that the writer has read widely on this issue and presents reduced bias one-sided views.


Two types of synthesis:


  • Wilson (2009) and Smith (2011) state that by providing continual exposure to appropriate listening material can improve acquisition.
  • The effectiveness of these cognitive, metacognitive and socicognitive strategies are well-studied (O’Malley & Chamot,1990; Goh, 2002, Lynch & Mendelsohn, 2002; Miller, 2005)



  • …they need what is called ‘comprehensible input’ (Krashen, 1982). However, the opposing argument here is highlighted by Blake (2008:19), who questions what constitutes to ‘comprehensible input’.
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A paragraph example of synthesis:

Using assignment essays for assessment supports learning better than the traditional examination system. It is considered that course-work assignment essays can lessen the extreme stress experienced by some students over ‘sudden death’ end of semester examinations and reduce the failure rate (Langdon, 2016; Jones, 2018). Study skills research by Jones et al., 2014; UCL, 2016 and Peters, 2018 support assessment by assignment because research assignments can be used to assess student learning mid-course and so provide them with helpful feedback. They also consider that assignment work lends itself to more critical approaches which help the students to learn the discourse of their subjects. In contrast, Abbot (2008) and Cane (2018) both argue that assignments are inefficient, costly to manage and are the cause of plagiarism problems in universities. A key argument is that “assessment by examination is a clean-cut approach as you obtain students’ knowledge under supervised circumstances” (Bable, 2008, p.20). The weight of evidence, however, would suggest that it is a fairer and more balanced approach to have some assessment by assignment rather than completely by examinations.