Synthesis Matrix

  • Many assignments, both short and long, require you to stretch toward the highest categories of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy of Cognitive Skills.
  • atg the highest level, you will find "creating," which includes synthesis--integrating or drawing together logically information from many different sources. How? The matrix below provides a template to help you develop better syntheses of evidence.
  • To produce a well-integrated argument, you must find and organize supporting evidence from several different sources. Otherwise, you produce a list of disconnected information, not a unified analysis drawing together data from different sources. As you read each source, whether a primary source, textbook, or other secondary source, organize notes topically, looking for patterns and trends. For printed sources, indicate a page number so that you can return to the information. For an online document, enter a short phrase that you can quickly search for and find again later.
  • Establish columns of topics as you do your research. When you find another reference related to the same topic, enter it into your matrix. By the time you've finished the required readings, you will have a matrix that shows what sources relate to which specific topic. Armed with this information, you can develop well-supported topical paragraphs that each draw upon information from several different sources.
  • This process of integration helps you bring together multi-source support for your interpretation. It also helps you winnow out less important points. For example, if one of your topics appears in only a single source, drop it from your discussion. Historians and other scholars seek broader patterns, so any key point should appear in several sources. The example below includes issues that might arise in a question about conditions for the rural masses in 19th-century Latin America.
  • This tool has been tested and verified to improve student performance. See scholarship of teaching and learning article by Maxine P. Atkinson, Jeremiah B. Wills, and Amy I. McClure. "The Evidence Matrix: A Simple Heuristic for Analyzing and Integrating Evidence." Teaching Sociology, 36: 3: (July 2008): 262-71.
  • I've created a blank matrix template that you may wish to print out and use for a future project. (Print it out in landscape format for best use. If it doesn't fit on a single sheet of paper, reduce the font size of your browser.)
  • Prefer to work with your computer, rather than with a preprinted form? You may download this Synthesis Matrix Table (RTF). Save the table file to your computer. The table should work with any word processing software. Follow instructions at the top of the table.

    Sample Matrix of Sources and Topics

    Source/document Topic/category 1, quality of life issues Topic/category 2, employment problems Topic/category 3, land monopoly Topic/category 4, legal restrictions Topic/category 5, racial discrimination
    Document 1 "flea-ridden huts" no data Rosas vagrancy law legal code of 1865
    Source 2 (textbook) no data p. 34 p. 55 no data p. 23
    Document 3 meager diet falling wages no data Constitution of 1917 no data
    Document 4 export crops injuries and deaths no data no data unofficial slavery
    Document 5 asado no data terratenientes elite rule debt peonage