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Synthesize & cite evidence from multiple sources

December 3, 2018

Synthesizing information from many sources is a common component within large-scale research writing projects. However, students need to be able to execute this same process during a simulated research task performed within a single testing session on a standardized reading assessment. Such simulated research tasks require students to read multiple texts and write an extended response citing evidence from all (or most) of the texts provided.

This is going to require that students utilize an extra level of organization during the reading, note-taking, and pre-writing processes. To support students in mastering this complex task, break down the instruction into a three-part mini-lesson series.

Part 1: Assign each text a color

When first teaching this skill, assign each text its own color. For example, details collected from Text A are represented in blue, Text B details are in pink, Text C details are in green, etc. When students take notes, they jot all the details on coordinating colored paper or sticky notes.

When it’s time to write the response, the color makes it easy for students to intentionally use details from every text. However, this is a short-term strategy. At some point, replace the colored paper with a graphic organizer.

Part 2: Use the 2-column graphic organizer

Using the two-column graphic organizer provided, note each text title in the far-left column using a different colored pen per source. As students collect relevant details, they note them in the corresponding right-hand column using the same colored pen. Again, students color-code their details when writing or typing to ensure that all texts are referenced within their evidence-based responses.

Part 3: Replace the graphic organizer with blank paper

Eventually, replace the provided graphic organizer with blank paper. Expect students to draw a chart with multiple rows–one per source. Titles are again listed on the left and their relevant details on the right. This time, using only a pencil, students mark details with circles and/or strikethroughs as they include them.

Juggling information from multiple sources is an essential part of the simulated research-writing process. This system allows students to quickly collect, select, and even attribute what details came from which sources.

[Read the research on this topic.]

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