Lesson 11. Research Skill: Managing and Synthesizing Information

KEY CONCEPTS

  • A variety of digital tools help communicators manage and analyze the information they’ve gathered.
  • The most creative part of an information strategy is connecting disparate pieces of information into a a new idea.
  • Synthesis consists of collecting and discarding from among the information generated by the information strategy process.
  • Information synthesis is done within the context of the message audiences’ needs.
  • Information generated through the information strategy process enables communicators to make a strong case for their story idea or campaign approach.

LEARNING OUTCOMES

After completing this lesson you will be able to:

  • identify some of the information management tools appropriate for your task
  • understand how to find the theme or focus for your message
  • organize the information for the message
  • ensure that the information in the message meets the needs of the audience
  • generate ideas for how to make the background information you have gathered “come alive”

Overview

Once you are satisfied that the information you’ve gathered and evaluated is as solid and reliable as you can possibly expect in the time available, you need to spend some time organizing and synthesizing all the material in advance of actually pitching your idea or writing the story, the ad, or the news release. This essential step of organizing the information you intend to use when writing will save you time and ensure you don’t miss important pieces of the topic. Just as you did as you began the evaluation and selection process, you’ll keep in mind what you have established about the purpose and the intended audience for the message as you start this sorting and synthesis step.

There are dozens of software systems to help you organize the material you’ve gathered as part of your information strategy. Some of these are called “project management” tools, others are designed to help you manage citations to documents you’ve gathered, still others are designed to help you brainstorm about what your gathered information means. Depending on your personal preference, you may determine that it is better for you to manage your information using old-school techniques such as transferring things to 3×5 cards, using manila file folders or using whiteboards or pinboards to organize material.

No matter what your preference, you WILL have to figure out an appropriate organization scheme for the information you’ve gathered before you can start to understand what to make of it and how it can help you with your message task.