How to Synthesise Your Sources

PhD Theses, Research

3rd April 2024

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As a PhD student, you understand the importance of thorough research and the critical role that synthesising sources plays in shaping your scholarly work, in particular the literature review section of your thesis. Synthesising sources involves integrating information from multiple texts to develop a coherent and nuanced understanding of a topic. It’s a skill that requires finesse and precision, but mastering it can elevate the quality of your research and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in your field. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore effective strategies and techniques so you can learn how to synthesise your sources.

Understanding the Process

Synthesising sources is more than just summarising individual texts; it’s about identifying key themes, patterns, and arguments across multiple sources and weaving them together to form a cohesive narrative. Think of it as constructing a mosaic, where each piece contributes to the larger picture you’re trying to portray.

Identifying Key Concepts and Themes

Start by thoroughly reviewing the sources relevant to your research topic. As you read, take note of recurring ideas, concepts, and themes that emerge across different texts. Pay attention to how authors approach and interpret these themes, and consider the various perspectives and arguments presented.

Making Connections

Once you’ve identified key concepts and themes, it’s time to start making connections between different sources. Look for points of agreement, disagreement, and divergence among authors. Analyse how each source contributes to the ongoing scholarly conversation and consider how they complement, challenge, or build upon one another.

Developing Your Argument

As you synthesise sources, keep your research question or thesis statement firmly in mind. Use the insights gained from your reading to develop and support your own argument or perspective. Your synthesis should demonstrate a deep understanding of the topic while also offering a unique contribution to the existing body of literature.

Organising Your Synthesis

Structure is crucial when synthesising sources. Consider different approaches, such as chronological, thematic, or theoretical organisation, depending on the nature of your research. Create an outline to map out how you’ll integrate information from various sources and present your synthesis in a clear and logical manner.

Maintaining Academic Integrity

Remember to cite your sources accurately and responsibly. Acknowledge the contributions of other scholars and provide proper attribution for ideas, arguments, and evidence borrowed from their work. Plagiarism is a serious academic offence, so always ensure that your synthesis is built on a foundation of academic honesty and integrity.

Refining Your Synthesis

Synthesising sources is an iterative process that requires ongoing refinement and revision. Be prepared to revisit and reassess your synthesis as you delve deeper into your research and encounter new information. Seek feedback from peers, mentors, or supervisors to help you refine your ideas and strengthen your synthesis.


Synthesising sources is a fundamental skill for PhD students and academics alike. Remember, synthesising sources is not just about regurgitating information; it’s about engaging critically with existing scholarship, generating new insights, and contributing to the ongoing intellectual dialogue.

Navigating the literature review section of your thesis can be a daunting task, but you don’t have to do it alone. From identifying relevant sources to synthesising complex information and structuring your literature review, we can provide expert guidance and assistance tailored to your specific field. Let us help you craft a compelling literature review that showcases your depth of understanding and sets the stage for your research.