The Critical Synthesis Paper (CSP)

The Critical Synthesis Paper (CSP) is the culminating manuscript that is an element of the Comprehensive Assessment in the Learning and Leadership program. The CSP demonstrates the participant's knowledge and in-depth understanding while providing a complete synthesis of all program competency areas (link: Critical Synthesis Paper Rubric). Its purpose is to reveal the participant’s demonstrable competence of the subject matter associated with the various program domains. The CSP will also confirm effective analytical abilities and writing proficiency in a holistic fashion, not be just a paper that bolts the competencies together or is merely a report on each competency area. The CSP reflects the participant's personal journey in the Learning and Leadership program.

One approach to the CSP would be to identify two or three major events / occurrences / processes in your professional experience and document them, including supporting, data-informed analysis from as many of the competency domains as are pertinent (in most organizational situations, multiple competency domains will be relevant). Through this process, you should synthesize your understanding of the competency areas and how they work together across your professional practice. Think of the document as you would a woven tapestry. While it takes a number of different threads (the competency areas, seminal literature, your experiences, processes you engage in) to make up the pattern, when it is complete the overall perspective is an elegant, woven cloth, not the individual threads. This represents true synthesis and is preferable to trying to find a way to edit / revise / bolt your critical reflections into one big written document.

The Critical Synthesis Paper should be a minimum of 4000 words in length, excluding title page and reference list. The CSP should adhere to APA style/UTC formatting guidelines. The CSP is submitted as part of the Digital Portfolio, prior to the scheduling of the Comprehensive Assessment defense.

The Critical Synthesis Paper (CSP) should also contain the following elements: 

  • A data-informed reflection on the foundations of learning and leadership: What your definition of learning and leadership was at the beginning of the program, what it is now, and how it has evolved.

  • A reflection on the concepts of "learning" and "leadership," as it relates to who you were at the beginning of the program, how you have changed, and who you are now.

  • A synthesis of how theoretical constructs from the competencies are applied and demonstrated throughout your professional practice.

The Critical Synthesis Paper (CSP) should not have separate sections labeled with each of the competency domains. Synthesis is the key.