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Research Help: Getting Started

High Library's Virtual Reference Desk


Synthesis is the putting together of parts or elements so as to make up a complex whole; the combination of immaterial or abstract things, or of elements into an ideal or abstract whole...Also, the state of being put so together. (OED)


Scholarship is a conversation. When writing a paper, sources should be integrated to support your own conclusions, so you can add to this conversation. This is especially true if you are writing a literature review, which has the purpose of showing how your research fits into the broader scholarly conversation. Unless your assignment is an annotated bibliography, you should never write about each of your sources individually. Instead, use synthesis.

What is Synthesis?

Synthesis is drawing together conclusions between/from multiple sources. When you use synthesis, you:

  • Take things you learn from one article, and use that information to better understand other articles
  • Draw broader conclusions
  • Create stronger statements

How to Synthesize

How to Synthesize

Organize your paper by concept learned, not by article/source

  • Identify commonalities from your sources
  • Cite sources together if they reach the same conclusion
  • Or present sources’ findings individually and link them through comparisons

Not every sentence must include synthesis. Your own conclusions should link everything together!

Sample Synthesis

Synthesis Chart

A synthesis chart is a tool that can help you visualize the connections between articles.

Designate one column for each article, then use the rows to make notes on what each article says on each topic.



Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

Article 4


Students struggle with vocab

Vocab is the hardest part for students

Scores are lowest in vocab

Vocab is intimidating


Reading words in context helps


Traditional memorization techniques are less effective than using words in context


Effectiveness of Memorization


Rote memorization is not effective

Students can memorize 10 words max at a time


Read short stories


Create Dialogs

Recommends no more than 10 words a day


Sample synthesis:

Vocabulary is a challenge for students (Author 1; Author 2; Author 3; Author 4). Traditional rote memorization techniques are not considered the most effective way to learn vocabulary (Author 2; Author 3), with Author 4 finding that students can only memorize 10 words at a time. Some studies have found that using or reading words in context helps with learning vocabulary (Author 1; Author 3).

Author 1 suggests reading short stories with students to build vocabulary. A similar strategy is presented by Author 3, who suggests creating dialogs to use with students. Both strategies use vocabulary in real-world situations to assist learning.

In-text Citations

In all citation styles, separate multiple references with semicolons.

APA:   (Author, Date; Author, Date)

MLA:   (Author Page; Author Page)

Chicago Note:   1. Appropriate Full Citation; Appropriate Full Citation.

In-text Citations: APA

APA citations within a paper should include the author’s last name and the date of publication. Specific quotes should also include page numbers, if they are available. If any of this information is given within the text of the paper, it may be omitted from the parenthetical citation.

Multiple Authors: If there are two authors for a single source, list both authors in each citation. If there are three or more authors, cite only the first author followed by “et al.”

Multiple Sources: When citing multiple sources within the same sentence, the citation for each source should immediately follow the information cited. If there are multiple sources for the same information, the citations all go within the same parenthesis, where they are separated by semicolons and ordered alphabetically.


(Author’s Last Name, Year).

(Author, Date; Author, Date; Author, Date)

(Author & Author, Date; Author, Date)

(Author et al., Date; Author, Date)