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Sources in Conversation

This guide is designed to help you synthesize research in your writing.

Tools for Thinking About Synthesis


These tools can help you synthesize your sources. This matrix provides an easy way of visualizing the patterns and relationships between your sources. 

Synthesis Tips


Need help synthesizing sources? Start with these suggestions:

  • Group your sources by topic and look for connections between them. Note where authors disagree or agree on a topic. 
  • Think about how your source’s arguments relate to your thesis: who agrees with you and who disagrees with you?
  • Avoid list summaries where you list every point an author makes. For example, you do not want your paragraph to look like: “The author says... then they said this...also they brought up...in addition they said”  
  • Make sure that your quotations support the argument you are making. Do not just put a quotation in to assert that you read an article. When using quotations ask yourself: is this helping your argument? Will this contribute to your audience understanding your argument?  

Helpful Synthesis Phrases


When writing, these phrases can serve as a starting place for synthesizing your sources.

  • In comparison 

  • In contrast 

  • Similarly 

  • Moreover 

  • Compared with/to 

  • Relative to 

  • Versus 

  • Likewise 

  • X agrees when she writes, “_____________.” 

  • X disagrees when he writes, “______________.” 

  • According to both X and Y, _____________. 

  • A number of scholars have recently suggested that X’s work has several fundamental problems. 

  • On the contrary 

  • Conversely 

  • On the other hand 

Adapted from Graff & Birkenstein (2018)