A photograph of a young girl playing an acoustic guitar

Source: Guitarist girl, Takkk, Wikimedia
Source: Hendrix Chord, Drew Von Buseck, Wikimedia

Before we can synthesize information, we first must study the information we find in our various sources, a kind of “first-things-first” approach, like beginning with a guitar part for a song before adding other instruments.

Once you have gathered sources about a particular topic, like coming up with an idea for a song, take a good look at what you have. You can begin to analyze your sources with a strategy called charting, which helps you delve deeply into an author’s meaning and analyze what you have read.

A star chart tracking several major constellations over time

Source: Precession starchart, Miraceti, Wikimedia

Before you begin charting, read the relevant part of the source, which might be an article, a chapter in a book, or a Web page, through one time to gain a general understanding of what the author is saying. Pay close attention to the main ideas in each paragraph. Next, go back and number the paragraphs using sticky notes or, if you are allowed to write on the text, write the paragraph number in the margin. Then, create a chart like the one below.

To help you understand how to use the chart, read the steps below. Click on each Think Aloud cloud to see what I would do during each step.

Paragraph Key words and phrases Content (essential information) Author’s style or craft

1. In the Paragraph column, copy the paragraph numbers into the chart.

2. In the Key words and phrases column, identify key words and phrases in each paragraph and list them in the chart.

icon for a think aloud activity

3. In the Content column, summarize the meaning of the paragraph and capture the author’s message.

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4. In the Author’s style or craft column, write what you notice about the author’s writing style or craft.

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Let’s follow these steps and complete a chart like the one above after reading an article on the health benefits of walking versus running. Click on the link to open the graphic organizer. When you are finished using the graphic organizer, return to the lesson. Graphic Organizer Instructions
A photograph of a group of teenagers walking across a bridge in a single file line

Source: Caminantes, Fernando Vidal, Wikimedia

Charting your sources is like charting new chords for a song. Using this chart with each of your sources helps you analyze the texts. Sometimes you may read a source and begin to chart it, only to discover that the source isn’t appropriate for your topic. Remember, part of analyzing sources includes finding the best ones to help you write your final essay.