New Nursing Programs

Emergency Closing Policy

Text Alert

Get Connected

Synthesizing Essay Ideas

 

Synthesizing Ideas in your Literature Review

In the course of your library research you probably found many different ideas and research studies on the same topic. Here are some ideas about how to organize or strengthen your paper:

  • Jot down all of the ideas that you have about the topic on a sheet of paper. Try organizing these in some way. What do you find? How are ideas related to each other? How can they be brought together to tell a story? For example, how could you organize the following ideas in a paper?

    • mood disorders in children from divorced families

    • academic performance of children from different kinds of family structures

    • extermalizing behaviors in children with different family structures

    • the effects of number of transitions

    • academic performance of depressed children

    • gender differences in school performance following a divorce

  • Consider writing your paper on the computer. This allows you to move ideas around easily, delete ideas that may be interesting, but irrelevant to your thesis, and add additional ideas as you go along. Be sure to back up your paper as you go along!

  • When several studies discuss the same phenomenon, organize these ideas together. Rather than having one paragraph focusing on Smith (2002), another on Jones (2003), and a third on Smith and Jones (2001), look for commonalities across these studies. If all three agree that children from divorced families act out more frequently than children from intact families, say this:

    • In general, children from families that have separated or divorced act out more frequently than children from intact families (Jones, 2003; Smith, 2002; Smith & Jones, 2001).

  • All else being equal, papers that talk about only one study per paragraph will be weaker than those that talk about more than one study per paragraph. And those that that are able to synthesize the ideas from several studies into a single sentence are even stronger!

  • When you have contradictory findings or research, try to make sense of them. What's different about each study? Are subjects different ages, races, genders, or different in some way? Is the method used in one study different than that used in the other? Were the research studies performed during different time periods? etc.

    • In general, children from families that have separated or divorced act out more frequently than children from intact families (Jones, 2003; Smith, 2002; Smith & Jones, 2001). However, males seem to be more affected by divorce and show much higher levels of externalizing behaviors than either girls, in general, or boys from intact families (Brown, Brown, & Browner, 2003).

  • Read over your paper when you're done. What story does your paper tell? Does it hang together? Could one of your friends tell you in one or two sentences what your paper is about?

 

Remember: Every paper and essay (unless it is only a paragraph or two long) should have an introduction and a conclusion. Tell me what you're going to tell me, tell me what you found, then tell me what you told me.