This method started at the University of Chicago during the 1950s. It can be viewed as a means of analyzing ideas within all academic disciplines by looking at the written texts where these ideas are discussed and critiqued.
Why is this synoptic method important for the humanities?
It gives the researcher a means of understanding a polymathic approach to contemporary issues and concerns. Understanding the origin and development of a given concept or idea presents to the researcher a more thorough understanding of the depth and extension to the contemporary issue or problem being addressed.
There is a historical evolution to all academic disciplines. The synoptic method looks at ideas and concepts within this historical evolution for each of these academic disciplines that takes them into account.
Best practices for using the synoptic method is first to remember the cultural and intellectual milieu in which the idea or concept under investigation emerged.
Then, always look at how this idea or concept you are investigating created various ramifications to previous ideas and concepts.
Lastly, remember to use a polymathic approach in viewing the idea or concept under investigation across various academic fields.
For example, do not be afraid to go from philosophy to theology, to political theory. Using this methodology will give you the best means of not only obtaining a broader understanding of the idea or concept under investigation, but will equally give you a foundation for further doing research with regard to understanding the consequences this idea or concept had within various perspectives.