Writing at Level 6 — Synthesising

NURS31340 R21–0709

Library for Educators
7 min readFeb 3, 2022

Supporting materials


Welcome video from Craig Morley (embed welcome video)

(embed text) Stepping up to Level 6

Congratulations on entering your third year at university! When stepping up to second year, it is important to take some time to reflect on what you achieved in second year and to identify what you need to work on this year.

To do this, take a look at the marking criteria for your course (this tells you what your assessments will be judged on), and identify an area or skill/s that you want to develop further this year to help with your assessments and other work. You may also find it useful to look back through your feedback on assessments last year to spot any patterns in the advice and suggestions you received. After you have decided on which area/s you want to develop this year, take a look at the which My Learning Essentials resources may help you achieve your goal.
(Embed marking criteria pdf.)

Planning how you will achieve your goal is just as important as recognising what areas you need or want to develop. Read through “The Big Picture: Achieving your academic goal” resource below to find a really useful strategy that will help you make an effective plan to achieve the goals you have set yourself this year.

Image of ‘The big picture: achieving your academic goals’ online resource
The big picture: achieving your academic goals

Activity 1 — Reflecting on and sharing your previous successes

It is also important to remember the skills and strategies that helped you succeed in second year! Take some time now to reflect on what habits, strategies or techniques you found helpful in second year. These could be about writing, referencing, researching or anything else!

In the Padlet (Column 1) below, share the tips and strategies you use that you think other students may find useful. Look at the Padlet for some examples if you are unsure about what type of things to share.
(To add a new box for your comments click on the + sign at the bottom of the column)
(embed Padlet)

Take some time to look through the tips other students have shared; you may find something useful that you have not thought of yourself. If you do, make a list of the things you want to try yourself and think about how you can incorporate these into your own ways of working. You may wish to include these in your plan to achieve the academic goals you set yourself earlier.

Synthesising (embed text)

Evidence of interpretation, critical evaluation, critical analysis and synthesis of appropriate research findings.

As this criterion from the marking criteria shows, the ability to synthesise information from a range of research findings in your own writing is an important part of stepping up to third year.

Synthesising is a high-level academic skill. It is particularly important in academic reading and writing as it allows you the go beyond focusing on individual texts and to spot connections between different pieces of research. Synthesising is combining and paraphrasing ideas from a range of different sources to find patterns, common ideas or arguments and identifying competing schools of thought about particular topics.

In other, less complicated words, synthesising is about finding and combining similar ideas in different articles or texts!

Activity 2 — Refresh and Reflect

Synthesising involves a lot of the skills you have already proven you can do effectively, such as referencing, academic writing and note making. However, it may have been a little while since you last wrote or referenced anything over the summer. If you want a refresher on these skills, the below My Learning Essentials interactive resources will be very useful.

Whilst working through these resources, make a note of the strategies or tips you think are particularly helpful and think about how you will incorporate them into your own ways of working. You may wish to include these in your plan to achieve the academic goals you set yourself earlier.
(embed resources)

Image of the ‘Citing it right: introducing referencing’ online resource
Citing it right: introducing referencing
Image of ‘Writing your essay’ online resource
Writing Your Essay
Image of ‘Note making: capturing what counts’ online resource
Note making: capturing what counts

After you have worked through these resource, reflect and record what you have learnt. Use the Padlet (Column 2) to note down your key learning point from the resources. To help with this, ask yourself the following questions:
1) What did you discover that did not know before?
2) What strategies or tips will you incorporate into your own study habits?
3) What did you remember that you had forgotten over the summer?

After adding your own thoughts, read through what other students have put down. Is there something you hadn’t considered yourself that you might think about now?
(To add a new box for your comments click on the + sign at the bottom of the column)
(embed Padlet)

Example of synthesis in action

Here you can see notes taken from three different pieces of reading about Manchester.

  1. Rolfe (2011) believes Manchester is the cultural centre of Northern England
  2. Only London contributes more to the UK economy than Manchester (Padi, 2019)
  3. Rahul (2020) discovered that more people commute into Manchester for work and leisure than any other city in the north of England.

These three notes all make slightly different comments on the same theme - the importance of Manchester in the UK. Therefore, if you wanted to make a general comment on Manchester’s position in the UK you could synthesise (or combine) them together like so:

“Manchester is one of the most culturally and economically important cities in the United Kingdom (Padi, 2019; Rahul, 2020; Rolfe, 2011).”

As you can see, this new sentence has simply paraphrased the three above together to show their shared idea.

Activity 3 — Your Turn

Here you can see some notes we have taken from three different journal articles about midwife-patient relations.

  1. Westfield (2012) argues that patient care should be the main focus for midwives.
  2. Midwives should be trained explicitly on how to build caring relationships with their patients (Kaldin, 2008).
  3. Alphi’s (2019) survey of current NHS patients found that trust and communication with midwives, nurses and doctors was the most common concern of patients from all ages and backgrounds.

In the Padlet (Column 3), write down how you would synthesise these three ideas together if you wanted to include them in your own essay. (If you are finding this difficult, remember all you need to do is paraphrase the three sentences together!).
(To add a new box for your comments click on the + sign at the bottom of the column)
(embed Padlet)

A Synthesising Strategy

Now that you have seen how synthesising works and had a quick practice yourself, it is time to look at how you can identify and use opportunities to synthesise information from reading through to writing.

In this video, we will introduce a strategy that will help you synthesise information in your notes and writing.
(embed narrated PowerPoint).

The below infographic, which includes two more sets of notes, goes through same steps as discussed in the narrated PowerPoint above, if you would like to look through an expanded example of this strategy.
(embed infographic)

Mind-maps are another great way to spot connections and shared ideas. You can also use colour-coding to group similar themes and ideas. Check out mind-mapping software such as Freeplane, MindGenius and Inspiration, if you like creating mind-maps.

Activity 4 — Practice Synthesising Strategy

  1. Read the two articles on labour pain: “The Nature of Labour Pain: an updated review of the literature” and “Women’s expectations and experiences of labor pain in medical and midwifery models of birth in the United States” (You may need to log-in with your university details to access these two articles)
  2. Make notes from the two articles, capturing the main ideas and arguments.
  3. Once you have notes from the two articles, identify and highlight common or shared ideas from across the articles. You can use the strategy introduced in the earlier video to help with this bit!
  4. Write a short paragraph to synthesise the ideas the two articles share. To help with this, imagine you are writing a summary to explain what the papers have in common to another student. Write your synthesised summary in this Google Doc.

If you are struggling to get started with writing your summary, think back to Essay Writing resource above and you will find this post on Writing Your Main Body helpful in structuring your summary.

Activity 5 — When to use Synthesising

Synthesising information is useful in many different situations. Use the Padlet (Column 4) to share what you think the advantages of synthesising are OR how you plan to use this technique yourself.
To help get started with this, you can also think about the questions posed in the earlier video:
1) What is the advantage of including multiple sources of evidence to support the same, one point?
2)How does it help you achieve a balance between descriptive and critical writing?
(To add a new box for your comments click on the + sign at the bottom of the column)
(embed Padlet)

Questions and Answers

If you have any questions about the work or themes we have looked at here, add them into the Menti below, and I will record a short video answering as many of those questions as I can. Your questions will be anonymous!
(embed Menti) (embed code — <div style=’position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; padding-top: 35px; height: 0; overflow: hidden;’><iframe sandbox=’allow-scripts allow-same-origin allow-presentation’ allowfullscreen=’true’ allowtransparency=’true’ frameborder=’0' height=’315' src=’https://www.mentimeter.com/embed/45a3252ac7034ce9c9a93ba2de77369d/d73a0bb80359' style=’position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%;’ width=’420'></iframe></div>)

(Embed evaluation)

Contacting the Library

The Library and the My Learning Essentials Team are here for you, so get in touch with us using any of the following methods.

  • Email us uml.teachingandlearning@manchester.ac.uk
  • Use the ‘Ask a question’ tab at the right side of the page on any Subject Guide.
  • Use Library Chat by going to the Library Website or MyManchester (log in required).



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