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In the previous example, the student might notice that no two colleges seem to agree on what constitutes "co-curricular," and decide to research this question in more depth, perhaps examining trends in higher education and offering an argument about what this newest trend seems to reveal.
The background synthesis requires that you bring together background information on a topic and organize it by topic rather than by source.
Instructors often assign background syntheses at the early stages of the research process, before students have developed a thesis--and they can be helpful to students conducting large research projects even if they are not assigned.
It contains no thesis, but it does have a purpose: to present the information that is out there in a helpful and logical way.
In the process of writing his or her background synthesis, the student explored the sources in a new way and become an expert on the topic.
If your data bank contains several negative comments, you might synthesize that information and use it to help you decide not to take a class from that particular professor.
Synthesis is related to but not the same as classification, division, or comparison and contrast.
This gives your synthesis a purpose, and even a thesis of sorts.
Because each discipline has specific rules and expectations, you should consult your professor or a guide book for that specific discipline if you are asked to write a review of the literature and aren't sure how to do it. It may involve analysis, as well, along with classification, and division as you work on your organization.
Instead of attending to categories or finding similarities and differences, synthesizing sources is a matter of pulling them together into some kind of harmony.
Synthesis searches for links between materials for the purpose of constructing a thesis or theory.