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Module 1: Grammar Module 2: Sources Module 3: Structure
Home » Module 3 Unit 1: Planning your essay » Grouping your source material - page 3/8
Unit 1: Planning your essayUnit 2: Structuring paragraphsUnit 3: Introductions & conclusionsUnit 4: Writing persuasivelyUnit 5: Writing cohesively

The synthesis grid

A synthesis grid is a table where you record information from your sources as you go along. It has two axes:

Your synthesis grid can be as large or as small as you want it to be. It depends on how much reading you have done, how many categories you want to develop, and how much detail you want to enter under each category.

Purpose of a synthesis grid

In this context, ‘synthesise’ means to combine elements from different sources to form something new.

Your teachers expect you to make connections between the different sources you have read, and to organise your essay using these connections, rather than simply reporting information source-by-source in an unsynthesised way.

A synthesis grid helps you to group your source material around the connections, issues or categories you have identified. This makes it a very effective form of initial note-taking.

It also helps you to annotate your sources in a systematic way as you go along, rather than desperately seeking connections from a set of disorganised notes.

How to develop your categories

As you read, you should take notes of the key ways the source material answers your research question. Note down the similarities and contradictions in the literature. Then turn these answers into categories.