Students often fail to write effective synthesis essays that compare multiple sources across common intersecting categories. Instead, they compose flawed essays that focus primarily on one source and then add a few ideas from other sources (patchwriting); report ideas from all sources in a disjointed fashion (tag-all writing); or draw from one source after another without comparison (separate-representation writing). Effective synthesis writing depends on three strategies: selecting important information from each source, arranging the selected information in a graphic organizer for easy comparison, and connecting information from the various sources in a comparative way. The authors report on an established teaching and learning system called SOAR (Select, Organize, Associate, and Regulate) and its newly investigated impact on synthesis writing in the two studies that they conducted. In the first study, students provided with SOAR supplements (a graphic organizer, association prompts, and a regulation checklist) composed essays that contained more information, better synthesis organization, and more intertextual relationships than did essays from students who were not using SOAR supplements. In the second study, SOAR-trained students composed better organized synthesis essays than students who used their own preferred strategies. Across studies, students found SOAR helpful for synthesis writing and reported that they would be likely to use SOAR for future writing assignments. The authors conclude with an example of how to teach students to use SOAR when they write.
Keywords: synthesis writing, SOAR strategies, graphic organizers
Download IDEA Paper 74 (PDF)