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Three Steps to Synthesising Information for Essays

Over my years of teaching essay writing, I’ve encountered many students who struggle to find things to write about. They can write well when their teachers or classmates feed them points, but that isn’t a good strategy for long-term success. Nobody will whisper in their ear during exams, so it’s important for these students to learn to think for themselves.

Needless to say, great ideas often come from reading books and articles on a range of topics. However, even smart, well-informed students can struggle to connect things they know with the essay question at hand. With coaxing, they can generate points based on information they already possess. But again, that won’t help them in exams, when there’s no one to point their thoughts in the right direction.

The skill these students need is called synthesis, which means combining knowledge from a range of sources and presenting it in a systematic manner to make a cohesive point. It is easier said than done because the information a person knows can often be repetitive, conflicting or irrelevant, making it easy for essay writers to lose track.

If you’re keen to improve your synthesis skills, here are some steps to guide you:

Bear your thesis in mind

When you are overwhelmed by the myriad of information, always remember the reason you’re writing is to prove your thesis. By keeping this in mind, you can identify relevant and useful points from the infinite sources, which is the first step of successfully synthesising information.

Consider the perspectives of stakeholders

Thinking from only one perspective could lead to a biased or thin piece of writing. In order to create an essay that is balanced and critical, the perspectives of various stakeholders should also be taken into account. By organising information along the lines of varied stakeholder perspectives, your essay is already partly organised!

Outline your structure

Time constraint is often a concern in essay writing, particularly in an examination setting, which leads some students to feel pressure to write the first ideas they think of. However, spending a few minutes before you start plays an essential role in organising the information you have gathered and helps connect concepts (and paragraphs) together. Try using a mind map or any other way to visualise how you can best organise your points.

 

Essay writing is unavoidable in your academic and career path, and exceptional essays are often backed up by a lot of research and the essay writers’ ability to synthesise the information they gather. Do not be intimidated by overwhelming data because they can be the most useful tools in your kit!