Know Your Verbs


Posted June 8, 2017

We all know that completing a dissertation takes a great deal of research and writing. However, there are other smaller tasks involved in writing a dissertation that you should be equipped to handle. These tasks are embodied in verbs. Some are basic, summarize, while others are a little trickier, synthesize. The purpose of this blog is to stress the importance of familiarizing yourself with these tasks, so you can perform them effectively and adequately.

To summarize means to briefly state the main points of something. That one is fairly fundamental. But what about others, like synthesize, analyze, evaluate, integrate? Most of us are certainly familiar with these terms, but when it comes time to perform these writing tasks, do you know what they mean in relation to writing your dissertation?

For example, when your chair asks you to synthesize the findings of previous studies for your literature review, do you know what it means to do that? You can look it up easily enough and find out that to synthesize means to combine various elements into a coherent whole. Okay, that makes sense. But what does that mean in relation to writing your literature review? Writing your literature review certainly requires a good deal of summary, but that is only part of it. Your chair has asked you to synthesize previous literature. So, you are to combine various elements—in this case, the details and findings of previous studies—into a coherent whole. This synthesis or weaving together of previous literature helps to create a coherent whole related to what previous researchers have author tomfound about major concepts and variables of your study.

So far, so good, but we are not quite done. To effectively synthesize material for your literature review, you will probably also need to analyze, evaluate, and compare the findings and research approaches of previous studies. Do you know what these verbs mean? Do you know how these tasks relate to writing your literature review? If you don’t, you should find out.


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