Synthesis is a process of making insightful connections between various pieces of information we encounter and creating new information as a result. This is a valuable skill widely used in academia, business, and everyday life. That is why writing a synthesis essay is often required in high school and college. The ability to digest information, make connections, come to original conclusions, and convey them compellingly in a concise write-up speaks volumes about the student’s analytical skills, logical thinking, and college preparedness.
In today’s post, we will talk about working with information, synthesizing, and writing an excellent essay. We will also be showing everything in practice using the example synthesis essay.
“What if I need help writing my paper urgently?” Not to worry! You can always turn to us for a personalized sample, and we will prepare it for you within hours. Meanwhile, if you have enough time on your hands, let’s study this process properly and break it down step by step.
What Is a Synthesis Essay?
A synthesis essay is an academic paper where you must defend a point by drawing your evidence from a number of different sources. It also requires you to process a lot of information, present it in an organized manner and accompany it with your own observations and thoughts on the matter. Ultimately, your task is to gather data, ideas, and evidence from various sources to come up with something new and original.
Elements of synthesis are used in a variety of other papers. For example:
- in argumentative essays to compare different views
- in research papers to study multiple sources and come up with a new idea
- in analysis papers to make final conclusions based on your findings
Much like the power of persuasion, synthesis is very versatile. A synthesis essay is just one format where this process is used in its pure form. Think of essay writing as a practice. You hone your skills for future research projects.
Synthesis essays can be of two types. The first is the short piece you write during your timed AP test. You are given several excerpts from documents and interviews and need to write an essay based on them. The second type is a larger home assignment paper. For this, you have to do your research and choose your sources independently. The process is similar, but it takes more time and planning for the second type.
How to Write a Synthesis Essay: Preparation Is Key
Now, let’s look into the pre-writing stage of creating the synthesis essay.
- Choose a topic
- Select your sources
As a rule, if you write a synthesis essay as a class assignment, you are given a topic or at least a selection of prompts. However, if you need to come up with a subject to write about independently, choose something broad enough. This way, you will have a variety of sources at your disposal. Writing a good synthesis essay based merely on two journal articles will be quite challenging. However, do have a specific focus. Otherwise, the number of relevant sources will be too big to handle. Remember, you will have to study them all.
For example, “Nature preservation” is too broad a topic to cover in an essay, whereas “Conservation of crested saguaro cactus” might be too narrow. “Arizona wildlife preservation” sounds about right.
There are three main rules for selecting your sources:
- Keep them relevant and within the scope of your topic; otherwise, you will be faced with the challenge of bringing together pieces of unrelated information from widely disparate sources.
- Keep them up to date; otherwise, you risk discussing issues that are no longer relevant. For example, conservation measures for species that are no longer threatened or, sadly, already extinct.
- Keep them credible, giving preference to informative, non-biased sources, such as peer-reviewed journals, official statistics, and government agencies releases.
As you read, take notes. Make a short summary of each text. To keep things organized, follow this pattern:
- What is the author’s primary thesis/idea?
- What are the supporting claims for this idea?
- What types of support does the author use the most? (statistics, memoirs, archive documents, etc.)
Now you have a list of summaries to your select sources. However, a series of summaries would be merely a literature review. The next step makes all the difference.
Now you must make the connection between all the sources. Sometimes it is easy to find. For example, when you research the gun control debate, you will notice that most authors discuss and interpret the Second Amendment of the US Constitution that guarantees a “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Take note of how each of the writers uses the same text to support their often-opposing arguments and persuade the readers of different things.
Other times, the connection might not be so obvious. Then, try asking the following questions:
- Which authors agree on the matter? Do they use the same arguments? How do these arguments relate to each other? Do they align and support one another?
- Which authors disagree? Do they discuss similar points or approach the matter from entirely different angles?
List your observations. Now you have prepared everything, you need to start drafting your synthesis essay.
Step-by-Step Breakdown of Synthesis Essay Format
Before we proceed, a word on a synthesis essay format. As a rule, you will receive formatting instructions in your assignment sheet or as a part of course requirements. If they are lacking, contact your college writing center to learn which format is accepted as a standard in your school. If no such instructions can be obtained, follow the synthesis essay example MLA, APA, or Chicago/Turabian manuals suggest. Which style guide to choose depends on which one is considered standard in your subject area. For example, APA is widely used in scientific journals, medicine, and psychology. MLA is more prevalent in humanities, including language, literature, culture, and media studies. Chicago, on the other hand, is established in history and social sciences.
Now, let’s analyze the writing process.
Synthesis Essay Outline Example
A synthesis essay usually follows the classic 5-paragraph structure with the introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and the conclusion. However, there are 3 main types of organizing the information within the body:
Point by point – works best when different authors discuss similar issues.
Source by source – works best when different authors discuss one topic from varied points of view, and you cannot identify similar issues.
Blended – works for profound, sophisticated essays investigating how different points relate to one another.
An outline for a point-by-point synthesis essay will look like this:
- Paragraph #1: Introduction
- Paragraph #2: One point discussed by multiple authors
- Paragraph #3: Another point discussed by multiple authors
- Paragraph #4: Yet another point discussed by multiple authors
- Paragraph #5: Your conclusion
Whereas an outline for a source-by-source synthesis essay will look the following way:
- Paragraph #1: Introduction
- Paragraph #2: Summary of one source and your interpretation of it
- Paragraph #3: Summary of another source and your interpretation of it
- Paragraph #4: Summary of another source and your interpretation of it
- Paragraph #5: Comment on what all sources have in common
- Paragraph #6: Discuss the differences between the sources
- Paragraph #7: Your conclusion
A blended organization will combine those approaches for a more complex and elaborate synthesis essay. For example:
- Paragraph #1: Introduction
- Paragraph #2: One point discussed by multiple authors
- Paragraph #3: Another point discussed by multiple authors
- Paragraph #4: One important idea brought forward by only one author
- Paragraph #5: Another important idea brought forward by only one author
- Paragraph #6: Your conclusion
For example, for an essay on Arizona wildlife preservation, a point-by-point structure fits perfectly because many sources focus on the same reasons why nature conservation efforts are important. Hence, our outline will look like this:
- Paragraph #1: Introduction
- Paragraph #2: Importance of wildlife habitats for future generations
- Paragraph #3: Protection of public lands as common natural heritage
- Paragraph #4: Nature conservation addressing climate change
- Paragraph #5: Conclusion
Synthesis Essay Introduction Example
The crux of your introduction – and the entire essay – is a thesis. To develop a suitable thesis statement, identify a strong position about the topic you write about. You might not necessarily agree with it completely. The important thing – you must be able to defend it based on the evidence from your sources.
- Come up with a working thesis statement
- Expand on your thesis
- Introduce your sources
Draft a working thesis statement. You will return to it after writing and tweak it, if necessary, to better represent the issues discussed in your paper.
In one or two sentences, explain and detail the position taken in the thesis.
Tell your readers about your sources, giving essential information like the title, author, genre, date of publishing, and background information, putting it into the context. Also, indicate that you compare your sources and different ideas expressed in them. Identify the connection between them and how they relate to your thesis.
One-third of all the wildlife species in the US are threatened or vulnerable. This means that our heritage, our quality of life, and our economy are also in peril. Protecting Arizona’s wildlife today is vital for our prosperity as Arizonans and the nation in the future. Studying The Endangered Species Act of 1973 of the United States Congress, US Fish and Wildlife Service press release dated September 29, 2021, Arizona Wildlife Federation mission statement, and Arizona Game and Fish Department official website materials helps understand why decision-makers, scientists, and volunteers must unite efforts to save unique biodiversity of Arizona’s wild.
Synthesis Essay Body Paragraph Example
This is the central part of your essay where all the synthesis will happen. It makes sense to start writing your essay with the main body, having only a working thesis you aim to prove.
- Choose several points to discuss in detail
- Plan the order of your paragraphs
- Start each paragraph with the topic sentence
Make sure you focus on the points that supply enough evidence to prove them. Remember that each idea must be discussed in a separate paragraph, so limit the issues you will explore according to the word limit. For example, if you are to draft a 600 to 800-word synthesis essay, pick no more than three or four points to write about.
The exact order in which you will discuss your key points depends on your topic. It can be hierarchical or chronological. However, it can be arbitrary. The main thing is that it must work towards proving your thesis. Start with your strongest argument, then discuss a minor one, and end with your second best point to be more persuasive. Alternatively, build towards your most powerful idea and end on the strong note.
The topic sentence identifies the idea you discuss in the paragraph. Follow it up with an elaborate explanation. Then give evidence and examples from your sources.
You will enhance the power of your main statement if you contrast it with the counter-argument right there in the topic sentence. For example:
Despite the opportunity costs of nature preservation programs that many economists point out, such programs are vital for our well-being and prosperity. First of all, game species are a valuable resource that we must take care not to deplete. Second, non-games species like bees and butterflies play a crucial role in the functioning of the ecosystems – farmlands included. Without them, the crops will wane. Also, wildlife in Arizona contributes to tourism. For example, the US Fish and Wildlife Service states that birdwatchers alone bring $32 billion annually to the US economy. Moreover, enjoying the outdoor way of life and reconnecting with the natural world is beneficial for mental health and physical fitness, indirectly contributing to the economy by lowering public healthcare costs and promoting individual productivity.
Example of Synthesis Essay Conclusion
Your conclusion should wrap up the entire essay and reaffirm your thesis, backing it up with an overview of key supporting ideas discussed in detail in the body paragraphs. Easy on the summarizing, though – just reference your main ideas in passing. The conclusion should be short and sweet, no longer than 10 to 15 percent of the entire text. Its aim is to seal the impression your essay had on the readers. Also, do not give new evidence or discuss new ideas in the conclusion. For example:
With the climate changing, natural ecosystems being lost to farming and construction, and many species being pushed to the brink of extinction, the future of humanity itself looks bleak. It is time to take decisive measures to save Arizona’s wildlife – and with it, our future. The state authorities, federal agencies, private landowners, the Tribes, and the rest of the citizens must work together to conserve this unique piece of American biodiversity and natural heritage for future generations to enjoy and thrive.
Here are some tips to finalize your synthesis essay and make sure you put your best foot forward with it:
- Improve readability
- Format the layout
Read your paper and assess how compelling and readable it is. Strengthen your arguments by using active verbs. Check if you don’t say the same thing over and over, only in different words. Get rid of unnecessary repetition.
Make use of transition expressions to make your text flow seamlessly from paragraph to paragraph. Split long and complex sentences into two. A tip: if you run out of breath while reading it to the end, it’s probably too long to follow.
For better readability, make sure you visually separate paragraphs from one another, set off lengthy quotes as blocks, and consistently format your text with the same headings size, font, and intervals throughout.
Although you can use automated tools to comb through your text and highlight any obvious spelling and grammar errors, make sure you read it carefully. Watch out for subtle mistakes. For example, check if your entire text is written in the third person. Also, make sure your tense use is consistent. For instance, you should use past tense for APA (Sharon Lashway stressed the importance of ongoing observation) and present tense for MLA (Sharon Lashway stresses the importance of ongoing observation).
Synthesis Essay Topics to Explore
If you don’t have a topic but only an assignment to write a synthesis essay on any subject within the course, here are some prompts for inspiration. We have gathered them under broad subject categories for easier navigation.
How happiness and life satisfaction correlate with income level
Better life vs. land of ancestry: key factors driving migration decisions
The assessment of the pay gap in the universities
Globalization vs. anti-globalization movements
Racial profiling in the post 9/11 US
Militarize policing and its impact on minority communities
Factors contributing to the polarization of society and the rise of hate groups
Similarities between Gen-Z and flappers of the “roaring twenties”
Crisis of marriage and nuclear family
Unconscious biases and their larger implications in society
Higher education crisis: who needs universities?
Educational outcomes in your state and contributing factors
The debate about religious practices in public schools
Ability grouping vs. age grouping
Busing and its impact on student life
Effect of class sizes on academic outcomes
Homeschooling vs. traditional education
Standardized testing: accuracy, fairness, and monetary implications
Blended learning vs. low-tech classroom
Teaching methods in early childhood education
Science and Technology
Lying with numbers: abuse of statistics in media
Ordering chaos: the human need to find patterns in randomness
Digital privacy issues amid the COVID-19 aftermath
Technical details of the “Right to be forgotten” debate
Algorithms behind the “info-bubble” phenomenon
Reasons behind declining trust in scientists and other expert groups
DNA profiling: science, ethics, and law
AI and human enhancement: opportunities and concerns
Automation in advanced and emerging economies
“Zoom fatigue”: opportunities and challenges of telework, telemedicine, and distance learning
Nursing and Public Health
Profits vs. ethics: the pharmaceutical industry and medical profession
Vaccines controversies: roots of myth and public mistrust
Ethical issues of genetic engineering
Long-term health effects of malnutrition in the early childhood
Cancer in the digital: challenges and opportunities
Impact of smartwatches and fitness trackers on health and lifestyle
Government health care coverage: pros and cons
Dr. Google: risks of self-diagnose and self-medication
Most dangerous days of the year: dealing with emergency rooms overload during holidays
Accessibility of hospitals and emergency health care in rural areas
Biology and Environment
Urban transformation and the Greenway movement
Global food crisis: hunger in the age of plenty
Perspectives of natural gas production
Evolution of public support for efforts addressing climate change
Can America achieve carbon neutrality by 2050?
The UN’s role in handling climate change
Opposing views on the endangered species problem
Oil spills and their impact on wildlife
The importance of urban biodiversity
Global warming and wildfires
State aid to health sector: Comparison among the US, Germany, and Japan
Celebrity influence in election campaigns
Telecommunication policies of China and North Korea: A comparative analysis
Evolution of Affirmative action and the results of the initiatives
Surveillance under the Patriot Act: Security vs. rights
The problem of heavily indebted poor countries
Legal advances in defining “genocide” as a legal concept: Nuremberg to Hague
The Fourth Amendment and pretext traffic stops: Whren vs. United States ruling assessment
The Fourteenth Amendment and reproductive rights: Roe vs. Wade ruling assessment
Changing the political party system (on the example of Mexico)
Varying views on abortion among religiously affiliated believers
Houses of worship before and after COVID-19
Varying attitudes towards gender roles in religiously affiliated
Evangelical Christian views on marriage and procreation
Reform Judaism vs. Conservative Judaism: denomination preference among U.S. Jews
Varying opinions on Israel among U.S. Jews
The growing presence and lingering negative perception: Muslim population trends in the US.
Vegetarianism and veganism among religiously affiliated
Tolerance and segregation among different religious groups
Too religious vs. too secular: misogyny hidden behind clothing harassment
Holistic weight loss approach addressing body and mind
Psychological challenges associated with chronic diseases
Mental health challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic
Episodic memory and emotional memory
Psychological effects of cyberbullying vs. physical violence
Obsessions and compulsion: challenges of the digital age
Suicide risk factors in teenagers
Child development challenges connected with low family income
Male victims of domestic abuse: challenges and risks
Narcissistic disorder and social media influence
Environmental and gardening history: Grecian groves to New Nordic gardens
Culinary history and introduction of spices: Medieval Europe and the Age of Exploration
Cultural significance of new species introduction in Early modern Europe
Whaling and its role in British Atlantic trade in 1650-1850
The debate over slavery in America and the world, 1830—1865
Wounded Knee and its role in the end of the “Indian Wars”
US Civil War: soldiers’ experience and the home front
World War I and changing attitudes towards death and bereavement
Conservative movements in the US History since 1934
US Culture during the Cold War
Gender conflicts in Sophocles’ Antigone
Class and wealth in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and attitudes towards depression
Woman’s life in rural America (on the material of Susan Glaspell’s Trifles)
Ethnic beliefs in Sandra Cisneros’ Woman Hollering Creek
Marital life in the turn of the century America in Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour
Dispute between faith and science in the Victorian Age (on the example of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach)
Salvation through Catastrophe in Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find
African heritage and American slave culture in John Edgar Wideman’s Damballah
The exploitation of the African Male in Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royal
We hope you find this guide helpful. Don’t forget that you can count on us whenever you need assistance. Inspired topic suggestions, insightful outlines, engaging samples, impeccable editing, and immaculate formatting – our experts can do anything you need for your synthesis essay to be perfect!