MSD competency A5

Knowledge synthesis

Do background research, interrogate data and summarise findings cogently

MSD competencies

Competency definition

Practitioners frame questions and gather information to understand an intervention area. They can read through multiple sources quickly, determine relevance and synthesise answers to their questions.

Knowledge areas

Practitioners with this competency will be knowledgeable about concepts and ideas described and explored in these resources...

Skills and experience

Practitioners with this competency will have acquired qualifications, skills and practical experience that may include:

  • conducting short-term research and producing briefing notes with key findings
  • literature reviews on a key topic to find inconsistencies and identify gaps in knowledge
  • leading review processes in academic or news media settings

Guidance for teaching this competency

Research assignment
Give practitioners multiple reports and documents on a key market or challenge, and give them a short amount of time to read, analyse and summarise the main insights. Challenge practitioners to go beyond just summarising to make sure they critique, compare and analyse differences.

Facilitated discussion
Lead a discussion among practitioners on the strengths and weaknesses of different primary research tools. Ask how they would reconcile or triangulate opposing findings from different sources.

Role play
Prepare three different summaries (of varying quality) of the same market analysis. Ask different practitioners to present each of them. Get practitioners to give each other feedback and identify what makes a strong vs weak synthesis of information.

Coaching & mentoring advice

  • Distinguish clearly between summarising and analysing/synthesising and reinforce this through ongoing feedback to practitioners.
  • Create time-bound windows (3-5 minutes) in regular team meetings for practitioners to share their ongoing findings from research in order to practice synthesis.
  • Organise meetings for practitioners to get help ‘interrogating’ data. They present their preliminary findings and get feedback, interpretations and questions from their colleagues.

Guidance for assessing this competency

Traditional questions
In a traditional interview present the interviewee with a dense two-page summary of an issue or sector. Give them 5-10 minutes to read and summarise. Observe their reading process. In their answer look for what they emphasise and what they omit - probe these decisions in follow-up questions.

Presentation of case analysis
When listening to a presentation of a case analysis push practitioners to backup their claims with sources and the credibility of those sources. Look for inconsistencies and contradictions. Challenge practitioners to explain or reconcile their decisions about what perspectives to believe.

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