Synthesize Ideas

Synthesizing Ideas in a Spreadsheet

 Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Doug


Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Doug

Once you find more than four or five sources, it can be difficult to keep track of the ways you might compare and contrast the information found in each source.

Activity

  1. Without looking at your sources, identify 2-5 themes of information that develop over multiple sources (not necessarily all of them).
  2. Create a table in a Word, Excel, or Google Doc or Spreadsheet. Use this spreadsheet as an example (you may also COPY this spreadsheet to your own document).
  3. Input your theme ideas into the final columns in the spreadsheet.
  4. Fill out a row for each source you have. Do not just mark yes/no that the source discusses this theme; instead, include brief notes on how the source discusses the theme, including what reasons and evidence it uses.
  5. Share-out: In the comments thread below, upload a document with your notes or provide a link to where you have posted your notes elsewhere (make sure they are posted publicly).

Developing a Thesis Statement or Claim

 Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Keith Davenport


Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Keith Davenport

Activity

1. Use the template below to help you further define your thesis statement or claim.

Thesis Statement Template

By examining _____________________, I will show  _______________________ because:

  • <reason1>_______________________________,
  • <reason 2>_______________________________, and
  • <reason 3>_______________________________.

(You may have more than three reasons.)

Please note that reasons are not evidence. Your eventual project outline might look something like:

By examining _____________________, I will show  _______________________ because:

  • <reason 1>_______________________________,
    • <evidence 1>______________________________,
    • <evidence 2>______________________________, and
    • <evidence 3>______________________________;
  • <reason 2>_______________________________,
    • <evidence 1>______________________________,
    • <evidence 2>______________________________, and
    • <evidence 3>______________________________;
  • <reason 3>_______________________________,
    • <evidence 1>______________________________,
    • <evidence 2>______________________________, and
    • <evidence 3>______________________________.

2. Share-out: Post your resulting detailed thesis statement or claim below in the comments thread.

Tip: If you are struggling to understand the differences between thesis statements/claims, reasons, and evidence, check out:

Identify Themes

 Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by  StephenZacharias


Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by StephenZacharias

Analyzing primary and secondary data and then making sense of it is difficult; it is not a process you can rush. Try to identify similarities and differences by “wading through” your data.

Activity

  1. Read through all of your primary or secondary data (focus on one or the other, not both at once).
  2. Identify similarities/themes you see. On a separate piece of paper, write those down with a brief description of what they are.
  3. Wait at least one day.
  4. Read through your data again. Does your list of similarities/themes still seem relevant? Update it (keep a copy of the older version). Also note any radical differences or outliers.
  5. Wait another day.
  6. Start with your list of themes and their descriptions/definitions. Now read through your data and code/annotate/note where these themes show up.
  7. Code/annotate any extreme differences or outliers (might they have similarities to one another?).
  8. If you have the time, share your list of themes and their descriptions/definitions with a friend. Ask that person to try coding some of your data. Did he or she mark the same sections? Did she or he notice different trends?
  9. Reflect on this process. Describe what you did. Discuss what you learned about the data. What are you excited about? What do you want to know more about?
  10. Share-out: Copy/paste or upload your reflection below in the comments thread.

 

 

Micro-Analysis

 Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Mark Chadwick


Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Mark Chadwick

Sometimes it is overwhelming to compare, contrast, and synthesize all of the primary and secondary data you have collected. Try starting small.

Activity

  1. Identify one specific piece of primary data or one specific secondary source.
  2. Systematically compare and contrast (note similarities and differences) that individual piece with all the similar pieces (so all the other data or all the other secondary sources). If you have too much, compare and contrast to representative types of primary data or secondary sources.

For example, pick one of your scholarly articles. Identify all of the similarities and differences between it and your other articles. Points you might compare include:

  • Author: You do not necessarily have to see the same author, but is it the same type of author (e.g., academic with PhD, expert based on experience, etc.)?
  • Argument: Do the pieces argue for the same general idea/thesis?
  • Reasons: What reasons does the article use or sub-issues does the article cover?
  • Evidence: What types of evidence do the articles use?
  • Publication process: When, where, and how was the source published?

3. Share-out: Copy/paste or upload your results below in the comments thread.

Identify Evidence

 Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Nana B Agyei


Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Nana B Agyei

Activity

  1. Generate a list of the types of evidence that are acceptable to your instructor, for your assignment, and in your field or discipline. Some examples might include: primary data collected from research, secondary data shared in publications about other research, expert opinions, theory describing how something works, etc.
  2. Look at all the data and secondary sources you have collected for this project.
  3. Categorize the information you have by the list of evidence you generated.
  4. Address the following questions: Are you missing any types of evidence? How/why might that type of evidence be important for your project (or not)?
  5. Share-out: Copy/paste or upload your results below in the comments thread.

Connecting Ideas: Mind Mapping

 Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Michael


Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Michael

Creating a mind or cluster map of your topic(s) is a great way to help connect your ideas while visualizing them in a nonlinear way. You can do this with paper and pen, on your computer, or via a web-based mind-mapping application (such as Popplet).

Activity

  1. Begin by writing your focused research question or thesis statement in the middle of the page and circle it.
  2. Now branch off that main circle and create additional circles of information that answer the question or support the thesis. This level is for argument/reasons; do not yet reference specific evidence or citations.
  3. From the second layer of circles, make even smaller circles that provide evidence/support for each reason (you might also include short references to specific pieces of data you collected or secondary sources).
    • You might find yourself referencing a citation in more than one location (just make sure not all locations, or you might be stealing that source’s argument).
    • Don’t be afraid to draw lines connecting one circle to another. It’s ok if it’s messy! (Doodling is also allowed if it helps you connect ideas).
  4. Share-out: Take a picture or screenshot of your mind map and post it below to the comments.