Home > Strategies and Skill Development > Conceptual Strategy Families > Research Synthesis

Research synthesis is the kind of reasoning needed to form a coherent mental model from information derived from a wide variety of sources. It comprises a set of strategies useful for
  • finding and evaluating sources,
  • integrating the information they contain into a coherent mental model, and
  • explaining that model to others.

The resulting skill set supports discourses that require research and scholarly communication. It corresponds to such genres as the research paper, the academic article, and the literature review, among others. It is therefore associated with convential aspects of scholarly communication, such as expectations about plagiarism and citation, though these are more strictly a matter of discourse incorporation strategies. The hypothesized development of these skills is presented in Development Table 15.

This class of strategies corresponds to Writing Standard 8 from the Common Core State Standards.

The following standard from the Common Core State Speaking and Writing Standards also draws upon this class of strategies:
Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Literature Note - Research Synthesis

Development Table 15. Hypotheses about the Development of Research Synthesis Skills

(oral to sentence)
Can identify points in two texts (or different points in the same text) that agree with or contradict one another
Can apply document-scanning strategies to selectively identify relevant points or to generate expectations to be applied while reading another text.
Can explain points on which two or more sources of information agree or conflict
(sentence to paragraph)
Can use textual cues such as indirect speech, tags, italics, quotation marks, block formatting, and other explicit indicators of viewpoint and stance to distinguish statements and information that should be attributed to the author from statements and information attributed to some other source.
Can apply mapping or graphing strategies to segregate information reflecting different sources or points of view within a text
Can embed information on multiple sources in a longer text, using language that describes the relation between the sources in appropriate metalanguage (quotes, responds to, builds on, etc.)
(paragraph to text)
Can build a coherent global interpretation of a text that distinguishes its unique contribution to an ongoing discussion and coherently links it to other sources and understandings directly referenced or indirectly alluded to in the text.
Can apply citation-searching and other source-tracking strategies to map out the literature relevant to a particular topic or research question
Can write a discussion presenting information from a variety of sources, presenting a reasonable overview of the source matter while clearly indicating the relations among sources and their contribution to the discussion.
(text to context)
Can identify areas of consensus, areas of ongoing disagreement, gaps needing to be filled, implications needing to be explored, and other issues that emerge from a coherent literature focused on specific research topics.
Can apply generalization and organization strategies to synthesize and information from a variety of texts into a coherent framework and organize it for exposition.
Can write a research analysis that reviews multiple sources on a topic and presents critical evaluations of the information and sources discussed.
(text and context to discourse)
Can critically review the contribution that a research article makes to the ongoing discussion in a literature, identifying where it breaks new ground or presents new arguments, and evaluating this contribution in the light of evidence documented in the literature.
Can apply critical reasoning strategies to identify and analyze key issues and presuppositions shared by a body of texts and to generate proposals and arguments based upon that analysis.
Can write a research article that presents and supports an original synthesis based upon a thorough review and critical evaluation of evidence from relevant literatures.

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