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Information Studies - Synthesizing


Synthesizing is the opposite of analyzing, or the scientific method. Analyzing requires that you take something apart to understand it by studying its several components or parts. Synthesizing involves putting things TOGETHER to arrive at something that didn't exist before.

Often referred to as the "holistic" viewpoint, this approach often points to human beings as a perfect example of the failure of analysis and the superiority of synthesis. If you cut a person up into pieces, you don't have much. You certainly don't understand the person better. A human being is much more than their mechanical parts.

Combining Alternatives

One of the steps in decision making is to generate alternatives -- possible answers to the problem.

Often an additional and even better step is to try to COMBINE the alternatives into a solution which is better than any individual alternative... a win/win solution, as it were.

The Quaker Approach

The Quakers are famous for their synthetic approach to decision making and meetings. In their meetings, if they are unable to come to a unanimous decision -- if even a single person disagrees -- they will avoid making a decision. Their worry is that the one person disagreeing may be right. Therefore, everyone in the meeting is required to re-think the alternatives and possible solutions, trying to find a combination of elements which will satisfy everyone.

In mentaling wrestling with the alternatives, they often come up with a new alternative, better than all the other previously considered.

Mind Mapping

Another popular method of coming up with new and unique answers, often synthetic in nature, is through mind mapping. This approach has you draw out on a piece of paper the relationships between the different ideas and assumptions and solutions that you are considering. Looking at the physical relationships sometimes triggers new ideas and possibilities.

If you are intrigued, do a search for mind mapping on the web.

Mind Shift

You will notice that each of the synthetic methods requires a shift in viewpoint or ideas to arrive at new, unique solutions that were not initially considered.

This "mind shift" has been since ancient times referred to as metanoia. Read up on this link to learn more about this fascinating phenomenon.


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Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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