Chapter 17: Synthesizing Sources

Introduction to Chapter 17

When writing college assignments, students are expected to integrate ideas from multiple sources, often including articles, websites, textbooks, videos, and other material. This is different than the writing you may have experienced in high school, which may have only required you to summarize what you have read. When we combine ideas from other sources to develop a new piece of writing, this is called synthesis.

17.1     Reasons to Synthesize

In an article called, “Teaching Conventions of Academic Discourse,” Teresa Thonney outlines six standard features of academic writing. This list provides examples of when you might synthesize ideas from various sources:

  1. Writers respond to what others have said about their topic.
  2. Writers state the value of their work and announce their plan for their papers.
  3. Writers acknowledge that others might disagree with the position they have taken.
  4. Writers adopt a voice of authority.
  5. Writers use academic and discipline-specific vocabulary.
  6. Writers emphasize evidence, often in tables, graphs, and images. (348)

17.2     Integrating Material from Sources

Integrating materials from sources into your own text can be tricky, but it can be helpful to consider that writing a paper and including sources is a way of having a conversation about a topic. When you are discussing a topic in person with one or more people, you will find yourself referencing outside sources: “When I was watching the news, I heard them say that . . . I read in the newspaper that . . . John told me that . . .” These kinds of phrases show instances of using a source in conversation, and ways that we automatically shape our sentences to work references to the sources into the flow of conversation.

Think about this next time you try to work a source into a piece of writing: if you were speaking this aloud in conversation, how would you introduce the material to your listeners? What information would you give them in order to help them understand who the author was, and why their view is worth referencing? After giving the information, how would you then link it back to the point you were trying to make? Just as you would do this in a conversation if you found it necessary to reference a newspaper article or television show you saw, you also need to do this in your essays.


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  • Introduction to Chapter 17 was authored by: Pamela Herrington-Moriarty. License: CC BY-NC 4.0

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Integrated Reading and Writing Level 2 by Pamela Herrington Moriarty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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