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Synthesis Essays: A Step-by-Step How-To Guide

A synthesis essay is generally a short essay which brings two or more sources (or perspectives) into conversation with each other.

The word “synthesis” confuses every student a little bit. Fortunately, this step-by-step how-to guide will see you through to success!

Here’s a step-by-step how-to guide, with examples, that will help you write yours.

Before drafting your essay:

After reading the sources and before writing your essay, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the debate or issue that concerns all of the writers? In other words, what is the question they are trying to answer?
  • On what points do they agree?
  • On what points do they disagree?
  • If they were having a verbal discussion, how would writer number one respond to the arguments of writer number two?

In a way, writing a synthesis essay is similar to composing a summary. But a synthesis essay requires you to read more than one source and to identify the way the writers’ ideas and points of view are related.

Sometimes several sources will reach the same conclusion even though each source approaches the subject from a different point of view.

Other times, sources will discuss the same aspects of the problem/issue/debate but will reach different conclusions.

And sometimes, sources will simply repeat ideas you have read in other sources; however, this is unlikely in a high school or AP situation.

To better organize your thoughts about what you’ve read, do this:

  • Identify each writer’s thesis/claim/main idea
  • List the writers supporting ideas (think topic sentences or substantiating ideas)
  • List the types of support used by the writers that seem important. For example, if the writer uses a lot of statistics to support a claim, note this. If a writer uses historical facts, note this.

There’s one more thing to do before writing: You need to articulate for yourself the relationships and connections among these ideas.

Sometimes the relationships are easy to find. For example, after reading several articles about censorship in newspapers, you may notice that most of the writers refer to or in some way use the First Amendment to help support their arguments and help persuade readers. In this case, you would want to describe the different ways the writers use the First Amendment in their arguments. To do this, ask yourself, “How does this writer exploit the value of the First Amendment/use the First Amendment to help persuade or manipulate the readers into thinking that she is right?

Sometimes articulating the relationships between ideas is not as easy. If you have trouble articulating clear relationships among the shared ideas you have noted, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do the ideas of one writer support the ideas of another? If so, how?
  • Do the writers who reach the same conclusion use the same ideas in their writing? If not, is there a different persuasive value to the ideas used by one writer than by the other?
  • Do the writers who disagree discuss similar points or did they approach the subject from a completely different angle and therefore use different points and different kinds of evidence to support their arguments?
  • Review your list of ideas. Are any of the ideas you have listed actually the same idea, just written in different words?

can a synthesis essay be 4 paragraphs

can a synthesis essay be 4 paragraphs

How to Write a Synthesis Essay: Your Guide From Start to Finish

can a synthesis essay be 4 paragraphs

Today, we're swamped with information, like reading 174 newspapers every day. It comes from all over—news, social media, science, and more. This flood might make you feel overwhelmed and lost in a sea of facts and opinions. But being able to make sense of it all is crucial.

This guide isn't just about handling all that info; it's about using it to write awesome essays. We'll show you step by step how to pick a topic and organize your essay. Let's dive in and learn how to turn scattered facts into powerful essays that really stand out.

What Is a Synthesis Essay

The synthesis essay is a powerful tool in writing. It's not just about gathering facts but about connecting them to make a clear and strong argument.

Writing a synthesis essay allows you to dive deep into ideas. You have to find similarities between different sources—like articles, studies, or arguments—and use them to tell a convincing story.

In today's world, where we're bombarded with information, synthesis essays are more important than ever. They let us explore how different ideas fit together and help us express our thoughts on complex topics. Whether you're writing about literature, science, history, or current events, a synthesis essay shows off your ability to analyze and understand a topic from all angles. And if you're struggling with this task, just ask us to ' write paper for me ,' and we'll handle your assignment for you.

Explanatory vs. Argumentative Synthesis Essays

In synthesis writing, there are two main types: explanatory and argumentative. Understanding these categories is key because they shape how you approach your essay.


An explanatory synthesis essay does just what it says—it explains. These essays aim to give a balanced view of a topic by gathering information from different sources and presenting it clearly. They don't try to persuade; instead, they focus on providing information and making things easier to understand. They're like comprehensive summaries, breaking down complex ideas for a broader audience. These essays rely heavily on facts and expert opinions, avoiding personal bias.


On the flip side, argumentative synthesis essays are all about persuasion. Their main goal is to take a stance on an issue and convince the reader. They gather information from various sources not only to present different views but also to build a strong argument. Argumentative essays aim to sway the reader's opinion by using gathered information as evidence. These essays express opinions and use rhetorical strategies to persuade.

And if you're keen on knowing how to write an informative essay , we've got you covered on that, too!

Synthesis Essay Structure

To craft a strong synthesis essay, you need a solid foundation. Here's a structured approach to help you nail it:

Introductory Paragraph:

  • To kick things off, grab your reader's attention with a catchy hook or interesting fact. Give a bit of background info about your topic and the sources you'll be using, as it can help readers understand your topic better! Then, lay out your main argument in a clear thesis statement.

Body Paragraphs:

  • Each paragraph should focus on a different aspect of your topic or source. Start with a topic sentence that links back to your thesis. Introduce the source you're discussing and highlight its main points. Also, using quotes, paraphrases, or summaries from your sources can make your arguments stronger.

Synthesis :

  • This part is where your essay comes together. Look for common themes or differences among your sources. Use your analysis to build a strong argument. Don't forget to address any opposing viewpoints if they're relevant!

Conclusion :

  • Wrap things up by restating your thesis and summarizing your main points. Explain why your argument is important and what it means in the bigger picture. End with a thought-provoking statement to leave a lasting impression.

References :

  • Finally, don't forget to list all your sources properly using the right citation style, like MLA or APA. Do you know that different citation styles have different rules? So, make sure you follow the right one!

Choosing a Synthesis Essay Topic

Picking essay topics is just the beginning. To write a great synthesis essay, you need to carefully evaluate and connect different sources to build a strong argument or viewpoint. Here's a step-by-step infographic guide to help you choose the right synthesis essay topics wisely.

choosing a synthesis essay topic

How to Write a Synthesis Essay with Easy Steps

Writing a synthesis essay is similar to a compare and contrast essay . It requires a methodical approach to blend information from different sources into a strong and persuasive argument. Here are some crucial steps and tips to help you along the way.

  • Clarify Your Purpose: First, decide if you're writing an explanatory or argumentative synthesis essay. This choice will set the tone and direction for your essay.
  • Source Selection and Analysis: Choose credible and relevant sources for your topic, balancing different types like articles, books, and websites. Analyze each source carefully, noting the main ideas and evidence presented.
  • Formulate a Strong Thesis Statement: Create a clear and concise thesis statement that guides your essay. It should express your main argument or perspective.
  • Structure Your Essay: Organize your essay with a clear synthesis essay outline, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each body paragraph should focus on a specific aspect of your topic.
  • Employ Effective Transition Sentences: Use transition sentences to connect your ideas and paragraphs smoothly, ensuring a cohesive flow in your essay.
  • Synthesize Information: Blend information from your sources within your paragraphs. Discuss how each source contributes to your thesis and highlight common themes or differences.
  • Avoid Simple Summarization: Don't just summarize your sources—analyze them critically and use them to build your argument.
  • Address Counterarguments (if applicable): Acknowledge opposing viewpoints and counter them with well-supported arguments, showing a deep understanding of the topic.
  • Craft a Resolute Conclusion: Summarize your main points and restate your thesis in the conclusion. Emphasize the importance of your argument or insights, and end with a thought-provoking statement or call to action. ‍
  • Revise and Proofread: Check your essay for clarity, coherence, and grammar mistakes. Ensure your citations are correct and follow the chosen citation style, like MLA or APA.

Ready to Transform Your Synthesis Essay from Bland to Grand?

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Synthesis Essay Format

Choosing the right citation style can enhance the credibility and professionalism of your paper. The format of your synthesis paper depends on the specific guidelines given by your instructor. They usually fall into one of the popular styles: MLA, APA, or Chicago, each used in different academic fields.

synthesis essay format

1. MLA (Modern Language Association):

  • Uses in-text citations with the author's last name and page number.
  • Includes a 'Works Cited' page at the end listing all sources.
  • Focuses on the author and publication date.
  • Often used in humanities essays, research papers, and literary analyses.

2. APA (American Psychological Association):

  • Uses in-text citations with the author's last name and publication date in parentheses.
  • Includes a 'References' page listing all sources alphabetically.
  • Emphasizes the publication date and scientific precision.
  • Commonly used in research papers, scholarly articles, and scientific studies.

3. Chicago Style:

  • Offers two documentation styles: Notes-Bibliography and Author-Date.
  • Notes-Bibliography uses footnotes or endnotes for citations, while Author-Date uses in-text citations with a reference list.
  • Suitable for various academic writing, including research papers and historical studies.
  • Provides flexibility in formatting and citation methods, making it adaptable to different disciplines.

Synthesis Essay Example

Here are two examples of synthesis essays that demonstrate how to apply the synthesis process in real life. They explore interesting topics and offer practical guidance for mastering the art of writing this type of paper.

Synthesis Essay Tips

Crafting a strong synthesis essay requires careful planning and effective techniques. Here are five essential tips to help you write your best paper:

  • Diverse Source Selection : Choose a range of reliable sources that offer different viewpoints on your topic. Make sure they're recent and relevant to your subject.
  • Seamless Source Integration : Avoid just summarizing your sources. Instead, blend them into your essay by analyzing and comparing their ideas. Show how they connect to build your argument.
  • Balanced Tone : Maintain an impartial tone in your writing, even if you have personal opinions. Synthesis essays require objectivity, so they present different viewpoints without bias.
  • Focus on Synthesis : Remember, synthesis essays are about linking ideas, not just summarizing sources. Explore how your sources relate to each other to create a cohesive argument.
  • Address Counterarguments : Like in persuasive essays topics , acknowledge opposing viewpoints and explain why your perspective is stronger. This demonstrates your understanding of the topic and adds depth to your argument.

Concluding Thoughts

When writing a synthesis essay, it's essential to pick trustworthy sources, blend them effectively to build your argument and stay objective. Use smooth transitions, address counterarguments thoughtfully, and focus on analyzing rather than just summarizing. By following these steps, you'll create essays that inform, persuade, and engage your readers!

Want an Essay that Sings, Sparkles, and Stuns?

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How Should You Conclude a Synthesis Essay?

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How to Write a Synthesis Essay

How to Write a Synthesis Essay

4-minute read

  • 31st May 2023

Are you writing a synthesis essay? This is a paper that combines information from a variety of sources to form a new idea. Essentially, you’re synthesizing existing concepts and arguments to create something original.

As a student, you’ll probably have to write a synthesis essay at some point. Read on for our step-by-step guide on how to write one effectively.

Step 1. Define Your Idea or Argument

If you haven’t done so already, decide on a topic to write about. Read up about it using a variety of credible sources and make detailed notes while you research. Make sure you keep track of the sources you decide to pull information from so that you can cite them properly later.

Make a list of key points from your research. Once you have a good selection of material to work with, start developing your own idea or argument. This will be the focus of your essay.

Step 2. Create an Outline

Synthesis essays generally follow this format: an introduction, a handful of main body paragraphs, and a conclusion. It’s a good idea to come up with an essay plan before you start writing so that you can keep things organized while you work.

The outline is mainly helpful for deciding what to include in your body paragraphs. Decide what supporting points (and counterarguments ) from your research you want to include, and which order you want to discuss them in. You should have enough information to flesh out one paragraph for each point.

Step 3. Write Your Introduction

In your introduction, you should open with something that hooks the reader and captures their attention. Then, state your argument or idea (i.e., your thesis statement) and briefly summarize the material you’ll be including in your essay. You should also include any relevant background information here.

Step 4. Write the Body Paragraphs

Using your outline, discuss each point from your source material in more depth, devoting a body paragraph to each. Explain the information from the outside source, including appropriate citations, and discuss how it connects with your idea.

It’s a good idea to mostly focus on points that support your argument, but you should also include a paragraph with a counterargument or two. This means discussing a perspective that doesn’t necessarily align with your idea, and then explaining why your argument still works.

Step 5. Tie It All Together With a Conclusion

The conclusion should leave the reader feeling convinced of your idea. Restate your point clearly and summarize the main points you’ve discussed. You could also offer any concluding reflections on the topic.

Different Types of Synthesis Essays

While you can follow our steps for any type of synthesis essay, yours will probably fall under one of two categories: explanatory or argumentative.

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Argumentative essays are as they sound – they present an argument. With an argumentative essay, you’ll take a more definitive stance on something and use your supporting material to persuade the reader.

Explanatory essays don’t necessarily take a side one way or the other. Rather, they focus on developing and explaining a concept thoroughly. Knowing which type of essay you’re writing will help you to gather more effective source material for your purpose.

Cite Your Sources

Since synthesis essays are particularly dependent on outside material, it’s especially important that you cite your sources correctly. Familiarize yourself with your referencing system before you start researching so you know what information you need to keep track of, and include appropriate citations whenever you use someone else’s work.

At the end of the essay, you’ll need to compile your sources into a reference list following the requirements of your style guide.

Summary: Writing a Synthesis Essay

Hopefully, this post has helped you to feel more confident in writing a synthesis essay. Choose a topic first, do your research, keep track of your sources, and develop an argument or idea. From there, you can organize your thoughts into an outline and get to writing!

Once you’ve created a first draft, make sure you send it our way! We’ll check it for errors in grammar, spelling, referencing, and more. Try it out for free today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a synthesis essay.

A synthesis essay gathers ideas and viewpoints from several different sources and ties them together to form a new concept.

How long is a synthesis essay?

Synthesis essays usually follow the five-paragraph format, with an introduction, three main body paragraphs discussing different points, and a conclusion.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write a perfect synthesis essay for the ap language exam.

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Advanced Placement (AP)


If you're planning to take the AP Language (or AP Lang) exam , you might already know that 55% of your overall exam score will be based on three essays. The first of the three essays you'll have to write on the AP Language exam is called the "synthesis essay." If you want to earn full points on this portion of the AP Lang Exam, you need to know what a synthesis essay is and what skills are assessed by the AP Lang synthesis essay.

In this article, we'll explain the different aspects of the AP Lang synthesis essay, including what skills you need to demonstrate in your synthesis essay response in order to achieve a good score. We'll also give you a full breakdown of a real AP Lang Synthesis Essay prompt, provide an analysis of an AP Lang synthesis essay example, and give you four tips for how to write a synthesis essay.

Let's get started by taking a closer look at how the AP Lang synthesis essay works!

Synthesis Essay AP Lang: What It Is and How It Works

The AP Lang synthesis essay is the first of three essays included in the Free Response section of the AP Lang exam.

The AP Lang synthesis essay portion of the Free Response section lasts for one hour total . This hour consists of a recommended 15 minute reading period and a 40 minute writing period. Keep in mind that these time allotments are merely recommendations, and that exam takers can parse out the allotted 60 minutes to complete the synthesis essay however they choose.

Now, here's what the structure of the AP Lang synthesis essay looks like. The exam presents six to seven sources that are organized around a specific topic (like alternative energy or eminent domain, which are both past synthesis exam topics).

Of these six to seven sources, at least two are visual , including at least one quantitative source (like a graph or pie chart, for example). The remaining four to five sources are print text-based, and each one contains approximately 500 words.

In addition to six to seven sources, the AP Lang exam provides a written prompt that consists of three paragraphs. The prompt will briefly explain the essay topic, then present a claim that students will respond to in an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources provided.

Here's an example prompt provided by the College Board:

Directions : The following prompt is based on the accompanying six sources.

This question requires you to integrate a variety of sources into a coherent, well-written essay. Refer to the sources to support your position; avoid mere paraphrase or summary. Your argument should be central; the sources should support this argument .

Remember to attribute both direct and indirect citations.


Television has been influential in United States presidential elections since the 1960's. But just what is this influence, and how has it affected who is elected? Has it made elections fairer and more accessible, or has it moved candidates from pursuing issues to pursuing image?

Read the following sources (including any introductory information) carefully. Then, in an essay that synthesizes at least three of the sources for support, take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that television has had a positive impact on presidential elections.

Refer to the sources as Source A, Source B, etc.; titles are included for your convenience.

Source A (Campbell) Source B (Hart and Triece) Source C (Menand) Source D (Chart) Source E (Ranney) Source F (Koppel)

Like we mentioned earlier, this prompt gives you a topic — which it briefly explains — then asks you to take a position. In this case, you'll have to choose a stance on whether television has positively or negatively affected U.S. elections. You're also given six sources to evaluate and use in your response. Now that you have everything you need, now your job is to write an amazing synthesis essay.

But what does "synthesize" mean, exactly? According to the CollegeBoard, when an essay prompt asks you to synthesize, it means that you should "combine different perspectives from sources to form a support of a coherent position" in writing. In other words, a synthesis essay asks you to state your claim on a topic, then highlight the relationships between several sources that support your claim on that topic. Additionally, you'll need to cite specific evidence from your sources to prove your point.

The synthesis essay counts for six of the total points on the AP Lang exam . Students can receive 0-1 points for writing a thesis statement in the essay, 0-4 based on incorporation of evidence and commentary, and 0-1 points based on sophistication of thought and demonstrated complex understanding of the topic.

You'll be evaluated based on how effectively you do the following in your AP Lang synthesis essay:

Write a thesis that responds to the exam prompt with a defensible position

Provide specific evidence that to support all claims in your line of reasoning from at least three of the sources provided, and clearly and consistently explain how the evidence you include supports your line of reasoning

Demonstrate sophistication of thought by either crafting a thoughtful argument, situating the argument in a broader context, explaining the limitations of an argument

Make rhetorical choices that strengthen your argument and/or employ a vivid and persuasive style throughout your essay.

If your synthesis essay meets the criteria above, then there's a good chance you'll score well on this portion of the AP Lang exam!

If you're looking for even more information on scoring, the College Board has posted the AP Lang Free Response grading rubric on its website. ( You can find it here. ) We recommend taking a close look at it since it includes additional details about the synthesis essay scoring.


Don't be intimidated...we're going to teach you how to break down even the hardest AP synthesis essay prompt.

Full Breakdown of a Real AP Lang Synthesis Essay Prompt

In this section, we'll teach you how to analyze and respond to a synthesis essay prompt in five easy steps, including suggested time frames for each step of the process.

Step 1: Analyze the Prompt

The very first thing to do when the clock starts running is read and analyze the prompt. To demonstrate how to do this, we'll look at the sample AP Lang synthesis essay prompt below. This prompt comes straight from the 2018 AP Lang exam:

Eminent domain is the power governments have to acquire property from private owners for public use. The rationale behind eminent domain is that governments have greater legal authority over lands within their dominion than do private owners. Eminent domain has been instituted in one way or another throughout the world for hundreds of years.

Carefully read the following six sources, including the introductory information for each source. Then synthesize material from at least three of the sources and incorporate it into a coherent, well-developed essay that defends, challenges, or qualifies the notion that eminent domain is productive and beneficial.

Your argument should be the focus of your essay. Use the sources to develop your argument and explain the reasoning for it. Avoid merely summarizing the sources. Indicate clearly which sources you are drawing from, whether through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. You may cite the sources as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the descriptions in parentheses.

On first read, you might be nervous about how to answer this prompt...especially if you don't know what eminent domain is! But if you break the prompt down into chunks, you'll be able to figure out what the prompt is asking you to do in no time flat.

To get a full understanding of what this prompt wants you to do, you need to identify the most important details in this prompt, paragraph by paragraph. Here's what each paragraph is asking you to do:

  • Paragraph 1: The prompt presents and briefly explains the topic that you'll be writing your synthesis essay about. That topic is the concept of eminent domain.
  • Paragraph 2: The prompt presents a specific claim about the concept of eminent domain in this paragraph: Eminent domain is productive and beneficial. This paragraph instructs you to decide whether you want to defend, challenge, or qualify that claim in your synthesis essay , and use material from at least three of the sources provided in order to do so.
  • Paragraph 3: In the last paragraph of the prompt, the exam gives you clear instructions about how to approach writing your synthesis essay . First, make your argument the focus of the essay. Second, use material from at least three of the sources to develop and explain your argument. Third, provide commentary on the material you include, and provide proper citations when you incorporate quotations, paraphrases, or summaries from the sources provided.

So basically, you'll have to agree with, disagree with, or qualify the claim stated in the prompt, then use at least three sources substantiate your answer. Since you probably don't know much about eminent domain, you'll probably decide on your position after you read the provided sources.

To make good use of your time on the exam, you should spend around 2 minutes reading the prompt and making note of what it's asking you to do. That will leave you plenty of time to read the sources provided, which is the next step to writing a synthesis essay.

Step 2: Read the Sources Carefully

After you closely read the prompt and make note of the most important details, you need to read all of the sources provided. It's tempting to skip one or two sources to save time--but we recommend you don't do this. That's because you'll need a thorough understanding of the topic before you can accurately address the prompt!

For the sample exam prompt included above, there are six sources provided. We're not going to include all of the sources in this article, but you can view the six sources from this question on the 2018 AP Lang exam here . The sources include five print-text sources and one visual source, which is a cartoon.

As you read the sources, it's important to read quickly and carefully. Don't rush! Keep your pencil in hand to quickly mark important passages that you might want to use as evidence in your synthesis. While you're reading the sources and marking passages, you want to think about how the information you're reading influences your stance on the issue (in this case, eminent domain).

When you finish reading, take a few seconds to summarize, in a phrase or sentence, whether the source defends, challenges, or qualifies whether eminent domain is beneficial (which is the claim in the prompt) . Though it might not feel like you have time for this, it's important to give yourself these notes about each source so you know how you can use each one as evidence in your essay.

Here's what we mean: say you want to challenge the idea that eminent domain is useful. If you've jotted down notes about each source and what it's saying, it will be easier for you to pull the relevant information into your outline and your essay.

So how much time should you spend reading the provided sources? The AP Lang exam recommends taking 15 minutes to read the sources . If you spend around two of those minutes reading and breaking down the essay prompt, it makes sense to spend the remaining 13 minutes reading and annotating the sources.

If you finish reading and annotating early, you can always move on to drafting your synthesis essay. But make sure you're taking your time and reading carefully! It's better to use a little extra time reading and understanding the sources now so that you don't have to go back and re-read the sources later.


A strong thesis will do a lot of heavy lifting in your essay. (See what we did there?)

Step 3: Write a Strong Thesis Statement

After you've analyzed the prompt and thoroughly read the sources, the next thing you need to do in order to write a good synthesis essay is write a strong thesis statement .

The great news about writing a thesis statement for this synthesis essay is that you have all the tools you need to do it at your fingertips. All you have to do in order to write your thesis statement is decide what your stance is in relationship to the topic provided.

In the example prompt provided earlier, you're essentially given three choices for how to frame your thesis statement: you can either defend, challenge, or qualify a claim that's been provided by the prompt, that eminent domain is productive and beneficial . Here's what that means for each option:

If you choose to defend the claim, your job will be to prove that the claim is correct . In this case, you'll have to show that eminent domain is a good thing.

If you choose to challenge the claim, you'll argue that the claim is incorrect. In other words, you'll argue that eminent domain isn't productive or beneficial.

If you choose to qualify, that means you'll agree with part of the claim, but disagree with another part of the claim. For instance, you may argue that eminent domain can be a productive tool for governments, but it's not beneficial for property owners. Or maybe you argue that eminent domain is useful in certain circumstances, but not in others.

When you decide whether you want your synthesis essay to defend, challenge, or qualify that claim, you need to convey that stance clearly in your thesis statement. You want to avoid simply restating the claim provided in the prompt, summarizing the issue without making a coherent claim, or writing a thesis that doesn't respond to the prompt.

Here's an example of a thesis statement that received full points on the eminent domain synthesis essay:

Although eminent domain can be misused to benefit private interests at the expense of citizens, it is a vital tool of any government that intends to have any influence on the land it governs beyond that of written law.

This thesis statement received full points because it states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning on the issue of eminent domain. It states the author's position (that some parts of eminent domain are good, but others are bad), then goes on to explain why the author thinks that (it's good because it allows the government to do its job, but it's bad because the government can misuse its power.)

Because this example thesis statement states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning, it can be elaborated upon in the body of the essay through sub-claims, supporting evidence, and commentary. And a solid argument is key to getting a six on your synthesis essay for AP Lang!

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Step 4: Create a Bare-Bones Essay Outline

Once you've got your thesis statement drafted, you have the foundation you need to develop a bare bones outline for your synthesis essay. Developing an outline might seem like it's a waste of your precious time, but if you develop your outline well, it will actually save you time when you start writing your essay.

With that in mind, we recommend spending 5 to 10 minutes outlining your synthesis essay . If you use a bare-bones outline like the one below, labeling each piece of content that you need to include in your essay draft, you should be able to develop out the most important pieces of the synthesis before you even draft the actual essay.

To help you see how this can work on test day, we've created a sample outline for you. You can even memorize this outline to help you out on test day! In the outline below, you'll find places to fill in a thesis statement, body paragraph topic sentences, evidence from the sources provided, and commentary :

  • Present the context surrounding the essay topic in a couple of sentences (this is a good place to use what you learned about the major opinions or controversies about the topic from reading your sources).
  • Write a straightforward, clear, and concise thesis statement that presents your stance on the topic
  • Topic sentence presenting first supporting point or claim
  • Evidence #1
  • Commentary on Evidence #1
  • Evidence #2 (if needed)
  • Commentary on Evidence #2 (if needed)
  • Topic sentence presenting second supporting point or claim
  • Topic sentence presenting three supporting point or claim
  • Sums up the main line of reasoning that you developed and defended throughout the essay
  • Reiterates the thesis statement

Taking the time to develop these crucial pieces of the synthesis in a bare-bones outline will give you a map for your final essay. Once you have a map, writing the essay will be much easier.

Step 5: Draft Your Essay Response

The great thing about taking a few minutes to develop an outline is that you can develop it out into your essay draft. After you take about 5 to 10 minutes to outline your synthesis essay, you can use the remaining 30 to 35 minutes to draft your essay and review it.

Since you'll outline your essay before you start drafting, writing the essay should be pretty straightforward. You'll already know how many paragraphs you're going to write, what the topic of each paragraph will be, and what quotations, paraphrases, or summaries you're going to include in each paragraph from the sources provided. You'll just have to fill in one of the most important parts of your synthesis—your commentary.

Commentaries are your explanation of why your evidence supports the argument you've outlined in your thesis. Your commentary is where you actually make your argument, which is why it's such a critical part of your synthesis essay.

When thinking about what to say in your commentary, remember one thing the AP Lang synthesis essay prompt specifies: don't just summarize the sources. Instead, as you provide commentary on the evidence you incorporate, you need to explain how that evidence supports or undermines your thesis statement . You should include commentary that offers a thoughtful or novel perspective on the evidence from your sources to develop your argument.

One very important thing to remember as you draft out your essay is to cite your sources. The AP Lang exam synthesis essay prompt indicates that you can use generic labels for the sources provided (e.g. "Source 1," "Source 2," "Source 3," etc.). The exam prompt will indicate which label corresponds with which source, so you'll need to make sure you pay attention and cite sources accurately. You can cite your sources in the sentence where you introduce a quote, summary, or paraphrase, or you can use a parenthetical citation. Citing your sources affects your score on the synthesis essay, so remembering to do this is important.


Keep reading for a real-life example of a great AP synthesis essay response!

Real-Life AP Synthesis Essay Example and Analysis

If you're still wondering how to write a synthesis essay, examples of real essays from past AP Lang exams can make things clearer. These real-life student AP synthesis essay responses can be great for helping you understand how to write a synthesis essay that will knock the graders' socks off .

While there are multiple essay examples online, we've chosen one to take a closer look at. We're going to give you a brief analysis of one of these example student synthesis essays from the 2019 AP Lang Exam below!

Example Synthesis Essay AP Lang Response

To get started, let's look at the official prompt for the 2019 synthesis essay:

In response to our society's increasing demand for energy, large-scale wind power has drawn attention from governments and consumers as a potential alternative to traditional materials that fuel our power grids, such as coal, oil, natural gas, water, or even newer sources such as nuclear or solar power. Yet the establishment of large-scale, commercial-grade wind farms is often the subject of controversy for a variety of reasons.

Carefully read the six sources, found on the AP English Language and Composition 2019 Exam (Question 1), including the introductory information for each source. Write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the most important factors that an individual or agency should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.

Source A (photo) Source B (Layton) Source C (Seltenrich) Source D (Brown) Source E (Rule) Source F (Molla)

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis presents a defensible position.
  • Select and use evidence from at least 3 of the provided sources to support your line of reasoning. Indicate clearly the sources used through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Sources may be cited as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the description in parentheses.
  • Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

Now that you know exactly what the prompt asked students to do on the 2019 AP Lang synthesis essay, here's an AP Lang synthesis essay example, written by a real student on the AP Lang exam in 2019:

[1] The situation has been known for years, and still very little is being done: alternative power is the only way to reliably power the changing world. The draw of power coming from industry and private life is overwhelming current sources of non-renewable power, and with dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, it is merely a matter of time before coal and gas fuel plants are no longer in operation. So one viable alternative is wind power. But as with all things, there are pros and cons. The main factors for power companies to consider when building wind farms are environmental boon, aesthetic, and economic factors.

[2] The environmental benefits of using wind power are well-known and proven. Wind power is, as qualified by Source B, undeniably clean and renewable. From their production requiring very little in the way of dangerous materials to their lack of fuel, besides that which occurs naturally, wind power is by far one of the least environmentally impactful sources of power available. In addition, wind power by way of gearbox and advanced blade materials, has the highest percentage of energy retention. According to Source F, wind power retains 1,164% of the energy put into the system – meaning that it increases the energy converted from fuel (wind) to electricity 10 times! No other method of electricity production is even half that efficient. The efficiency and clean nature of wind power are important to consider, especially because they contribute back to power companies economically.

[3] Economically, wind power is both a boon and a bone to electric companies and other users. For consumers, wind power is very cheap, leading to lower bills than from any other source. Consumers also get an indirect reimbursement by way of taxes (Source D). In one Texan town, McCamey, tax revenue increased 30% from a wind farm being erected in the town. This helps to finance improvements to the town. But, there is no doubt that wind power is also hurting the power companies. Although, as renewable power goes, wind is incredibly cheap, it is still significantly more expensive than fossil fuels. So, while it is helping to cut down on emissions, it costs electric companies more than traditional fossil fuel plants. While the general economic trend is positive, there are some setbacks which must be overcome before wind power can take over as truly more effective than fossil fuels.

[4] Aesthetics may be the greatest setback for power companies. Although there may be significant economic and environmental benefit to wind power, people will always fight to preserve pure, unspoiled land. Unfortunately, not much can be done to improve the visual aesthetics of the turbines. White paint is the most common choice because it "[is] associated with cleanliness." (Source E). But, this can make it stand out like a sore thumb, and make the gargantuan machines seem more out of place. The site can also not be altered because it affects generating capacity. Sound is almost worse of a concern because it interrupts personal productivity by interrupting people's sleep patterns. One thing for power companies to consider is working with turbine manufacturing to make the machines less aesthetically impactful, so as to garner greater public support.

[5] As with most things, wind power has no easy answer. It is the responsibility of the companies building them to weigh the benefits and the consequences. But, by balancing economics, efficiency, and aesthetics, power companies can create a solution which balances human impact with environmental preservation.

And that's an entire AP Lang synthesis essay example, written in response to a real AP Lang exam prompt! It's important to remember AP Lang exam synthesis essay prompts are always similarly structured and worded, and students often respond in around the same number of paragraphs as what you see in the example essay response above.

Next, let's analyze this example essay and talk about what it does effectively, where it could be improved upon, and what score past exam scorers awarded it.

To get started on an analysis of the sample synthesis essay, let's look at the scoring commentary provided by the College Board:

  • For development of thesis, the essay received 1 out of 1 possible points
  • For evidence and commentary, the essay received 4 out of 4 possible points
  • For sophistication of thought, the essay received 0 out of 1 possible points.

This means that the final score for this example essay was a 5 out of 6 possible points . Let's look more closely at the content of the example essay to figure out why it received this score breakdown.

Thesis Development

The thesis statement is one of the three main categories that is taken into consideration when you're awarded points on this portion of the exam. This sample essay received 1 out of 1 total points.

Now, here's why: the thesis statement clearly and concisely conveys a position on the topic presented in the prompt--alternative energy and wind power--and defines the most important factors that power companies should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.

Evidence and Commentary

The second key category taken into consideration when synthesis exams are evaluated is incorporation of evidence and commentary. This sample received 4 out of 4 possible points for this portion of the synthesis essay. At bare minimum, this sample essay meets the requirement mentioned in the prompt that the writer incorporate evidence from at least three of the sources provided.

On top of that, the writer does a good job of connecting the incorporated evidence back to the claim made in the thesis statement through effective commentary. The commentary in this sample essay is effective because it goes beyond just summarizing what the provided sources say. Instead, it explains and analyzes the evidence presented in the selected sources and connects them back to supporting points the writer makes in each body paragraph.

Finally, the writer of the essay also received points for evidence and commentary because the writer developed and supported a consistent line of reasoning throughout the essay . This line of reasoning is summed up in the fourth paragraph in the following sentence: "One thing for power companies to consider is working with turbine manufacturing to make the machines less aesthetically impactful, so as to garner greater public support."

Because the writer did a good job consistently developing their argument and incorporating evidence, they received full marks in this category. So far, so good!

Sophistication of Thought

Now, we know that this essay received a score of 5 out of 6 total points, and the place where the writer lost a point was on the basis of sophistication of thought, for which the writer received 0 out of 1 points. That's because this sample essay makes several generalizations and vague claims where it could have instead made specific claims that support a more balanced argument.

For example, in the following sentence from the 5th paragraph of the sample essay, the writer misses the opportunity to state specific possibilities that power companies should consider for wind energy . Instead, the writer is ambiguous and non-committal, saying, "As with most things, wind power has no easy answer. It is the responsibility of the companies building them to weigh the benefits and consequences."

If the writer of this essay was interested in trying to get that 6th point on the synthesis essay response, they could consider making more specific claims. For instance, they could state the specific benefits and consequences power companies should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm. These could include things like environmental impacts, economic impacts, or even population density!

Despite losing one point in the last category, this example synthesis essay is a strong one. It's well-developed, thoughtfully written, and advances an argument on the exam topic using evidence and support throughout.


4 Tips for How to Write a Synthesis Essay

AP Lang is a timed exam, so you have to pick and choose what you want to focus on in the limited time you're given to write the synthesis essay. Keep reading to get our expert advice on what you should focus on during your exam.

Tip 1: Read the Prompt First

It may sound obvious, but when you're pressed for time, it's easy to get flustered. Just remember: when it comes time to write the synthesis essay, read the prompt first !

Why is it so important to read the prompt before you read the sources? Because when you're aware of what kind of question you're trying to answer, you'll be able to read the sources more strategically. The prompt will help give you a sense of what claims, points, facts, or opinions to be looking for as you read the sources.

Reading the sources without having read the prompt first is kind of like trying to drive while wearing a blindfold: you can probably do it, but it's likely not going to end well!

Tip 2: Make Notes While You Read

During the 15-minute reading period at the beginning of the synthesis essay, you'll be reading through the sources as quickly as you can. After all, you're probably anxious to start writing!

While it's definitely important to make good use of your time, it's also important to read closely enough that you understand your sources. Careful reading will allow you to identify parts of the sources that will help you support your thesis statement in your essay, too.

As you read the sources, consider marking helpful passages with a star or check mark in the margins of the exam so you know which parts of the text to quickly re-read as you form your synthesis essay. You might also consider summing up the key points or position of each source in a sentence or a few words when you finish reading each source during the reading period. Doing so will help you know where each source stands on the topic given and help you pick the three (or more!) that will bolster your synthesis argument.

Tip 3: Start With the Thesis Statement

If you don't start your synthesis essay with a strong thesis statement, it's going to be tough to write an effective synthesis essay. As soon as you finish reading and annotating the provided sources, the thing you want to do next is write a strong thesis statement.

According to the CollegeBoard grading guidelines for the AP Lang synthesis essay, a strong thesis statement will respond to the prompt— not restate or rephrase the prompt. A good thesis will take a clear, defensible position on the topic presented in the prompt and the sources.

In other words, to write a solid thesis statement to guide the rest of your synthesis essay, you need to think about your position on the topic at hand and then make a claim about the topic based on your position. This position will either be defending, challenging, or qualifying the claim made in the essay's prompt.

The defensible position that you establish in your thesis statement will guide your argument in the rest of the essay, so it's important to do this first. Once you have a strong thesis statement, you can begin outlining your essay.

Tip 4: Focus on Your Commentary

Writing thoughtful, original commentary that explains your argument and your sources is important. In fact, doing this well will earn you four points (out of a total of six)!

AP Lang provides six to seven sources for you on the exam, and you'll be expected to incorporate quotations, paraphrases, or summaries from at least three of those sources into your synthesis essay and interpret that evidence for the reader.

While incorporating evidence is very important, in order to get the extra point for "sophistication of thought" on the synthesis essay, it's important to spend more time thinking about your commentary on the evidence you choose to incorporate. The commentary is your chance to show original thinking, strong rhetorical skills, and clearly explain how the evidence you've included supports the stance you laid out in your thesis statement.

To earn the 6th possible point on the synthesis essay, make sure your commentary demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the source material, explains this nuanced understanding, and places the evidence incorporated from the sources in conversation with each other. To do this, make sure you're avoiding vague language. Be specific when you can, and always tie your commentary back to your thesis!


What's Next?

There's a lot more to the AP Language exam than just the synthesis essay. Be sure to check out our expert guide to the entire exam , then learn more about the tricky multiple choice section .

Is the AP Lang exam hard...or is it easy? See how it stacks up to other AP tests on our list of the hardest AP exams .

Did you know there are technically two English AP exams? You can learn more about the second English AP test, the AP Literature exam, in this article . And if you're confused about whether you should take the AP Lang or AP Lit test , we can help you make that decision, too.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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How To Write A Synthesis Paragraph: Step By Step Guide

How To Write A Synthesis Paragraph

  • Post author By admin
  • March 6, 2024

In the world of academic writing, one skill stands out as crucial for effectively presenting complex ideas: the ability to craft synthesis paragraphs. These paragraphs serve as bridges between various sources, allowing writers to weave together different viewpoints, arguments, and evidence into a cohesive narrative. In this guide, we’ll delve into the details of how to write a synthesis paragraph, breaking down the process into manageable steps and providing practical tips for mastering this essential skill.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Concept

Before diving into the specifics of writing synthesis paragraphs, it’s essential to grasp the concept of synthesis itself. Synthesis involves the integration of multiple sources to create a unified whole.

In the context of writing, synthesis paragraphs bring together ideas from different texts, analyzing their relationships and presenting them in a coherent manner.

The purpose of synthesis paragraphs is two-fold: to demonstrate a deep understanding of the subject matter by engaging with a range of perspectives, and to construct an argument or narrative that goes beyond the individual sources.

By synthesizing information from various sources, writers can develop nuanced interpretations, identify patterns or trends, and offer fresh insights to their readers.

How To Write A Synthesis Paragraph Step By Step

  • Analyze Sources:

Begin by thoroughly analyzing the sources you plan to synthesize. Identify the main ideas, key arguments, and supporting evidence presented in each source. Take note of any similarities or differences between the sources and consider how they relate to your topic.

Example: Suppose you’re writing a synthesis paragraph on the topic of climate change. Begin by analyzing several sources, such as scientific studies, government reports, and opinion pieces from reputable sources. Identify the main ideas and key arguments presented in each source.

For instance, one source might emphasize the role of human activities in driving climate change, while another might focus on the impacts of rising temperatures on ecosystems and communities.

  • Determine Relationships Between Sources:

Next, explore the relationships between the sources. Look for common themes, topics, or perspectives that emerge across multiple texts. At the same time, be alert to any contradictions or divergent viewpoints that may require further analysis.

Example: After analyzing the sources, consider how they relate to each other. Look for common themes or topics that emerge across multiple texts. For instance, you might find that several sources discuss the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.

At the same time, be aware of any differences or contradictions between the sources. Perhaps one source advocates for immediate action to address climate change, while another suggests a more cautious approach.

  • Develop a Thesis Statement:

Based on your analysis of the sources, craft a thesis statement that encapsulates the central idea or argument of your synthesis paragraph. Your thesis should provide a clear direction for the paragraph and establish the purpose of your synthesis.

Example: Based on your analysis of the sources, craft a thesis statement that captures the central idea of your synthesis paragraph. For example, your thesis statement might assert that while climate change presents a significant threat to the planet, effective mitigation strategies require a coordinated effort from governments, businesses, and individuals.

This thesis sets the direction for your synthesis paragraph and establishes the purpose of your analysis.

  • Organize the Paragraph:

Choose a suitable organizational structure for your synthesis paragraph, such as a point-by-point comparison or a block format. Arrange your ideas in a logical sequence, ensuring a smooth flow of information from one point to the next.

Example: Choose a suitable organizational structure for your synthesis paragraph. You might opt for a point-by-point comparison, where you discuss each source’s perspective on a particular aspect of climate change before synthesizing the information.

Alternatively, you could use a block format, where you dedicate separate paragraphs to each source before offering your synthesis. Whichever structure you choose, ensure that your ideas flow logically and coherently.

  • Write the Synthesis Paragraph:

Begin your paragraph by introducing the sources you’ll be synthesizing, providing brief context or background information as needed. Then, present the synthesized information, drawing connections between the sources and offering your analysis and interpretation. Be sure to include evidence from the sources to support your claims and engage critically with the material.

Example: Begin your synthesis paragraph by introducing the sources you’ll be synthesizing. Provide brief context or background information for each source to orient the reader. For instance, you might mention the titles of the scientific studies or the credentials of the authors. Then, present the synthesized information, drawing connections between the sources and offering your analysis and interpretation.

Discuss how each source contributes to your understanding of climate change and highlight any common themes or divergent viewpoints. Finally, conclude the paragraph by reiterating your thesis statement and summarizing the key insights gained from synthesizing the sources.

By following these steps and incorporating examples, you can effectively write a synthesis paragraph that integrates information from multiple sources to construct a coherent argument or narrative.

Tips for Effective Synthesis Paragraphs

  • Maintain Clarity and Coherence: Keep your writing clear and concise, avoiding unnecessary jargon or complex language. Ensure that each sentence contributes to the overall coherence of the paragraph, guiding the reader through your synthesis with ease.
  • Use Transitional Phrases and Words: Use transitional phrases and words to signal shifts between ideas or sources. Phrases like “on the other hand,” “similarly,” and “in contrast” can help to clarify the relationships between different parts of your synthesis.
  • Incorporate Evidence from Sources: Support your analysis with evidence from the sources you’re synthesizing. Quote directly from the texts, cite relevant statistics or examples, and attribute ideas to their respective authors to strengthen your argument.
  • Avoid Mere Summarization: Resist the temptation to simply summarize the sources without adding any new insights. Instead, focus on synthesizing the information in a way that offers a fresh perspective or contributes to a deeper understanding of the topic.
  • Provide Critical Evaluation: Engage critically with the material by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments presented in the sources. Offer your own assessment of the evidence, highlighting areas of agreement or disagreement and considering alternative viewpoints.

Examples of Synthesis Paragraphs

To illustrate the principles outlined above, let’s consider an example for how to write a synthesis paragraph that integrates information from multiple sources to support a central argument.

Sample Synthesis Paragraph:

In conclusion, writing synthesis paragraphs is a skill that can be mastered with practice and careful attention to detail.

By following the steps outlined in this guide for how to write a synthesis paragraph and incorporating the tips provided, writers can effectively synthesize information from multiple sources to construct compelling arguments and narratives.

Whether you’re a student working on a research paper or a professional seeking to communicate complex ideas, mastering the art of writing synthesis paragraphs will enhance your ability to engage with diverse perspectives and contribute meaningfully to academic discourse.

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How to Write a Synthesis Essay

Last Updated: April 7, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,122,538 times.

Writing a synthesis essay requires the ability to digest information and present it in an organized fashion. While this skill is developed in high school and college classes, it translates to the business and advertising world as well. Scroll down to Step 1 to begin learning how to write a synthesis essay.

Examining Your Topic

Step 1 Understand the concept of a synthesis essay.

  • Argument synthesis: This type of essay has a strong thesis statement that presents the writer's point of view. It organizes relevant information gathered from research in a logical manner to support the thesis' point of view. Business white papers known as position papers often take this form. This is the type of synthesis essay that students will write during the AP test.
  • Review: Often written as a preliminary essay to an argument synthesis, a review essay is a discussion of what has been written previously on a topic, with a critical analysis of the sources covered. Its unstated thesis is usually that more research needs to be done in that area or that the topic problem has not been adequately addressed. This type of paper is common in social science classes and in medicine.
  • Explanatory/background synthesis: This type of essay helps readers understand a topic by categorizing facts and presenting them to further the reader's understanding. It does not advocate a particular point of view, and if it has a thesis statement, the thesis is a weak one. Some business white papers take this form, although they are more likely to have a point of view, if understated.

Step 2 Choose a topic suitable for a synthesis essay.

  • Example of a broad topic narrowed down into a reasonable synthesis essay topic: Instead of the broad topic of Social Media, you could discuss your view on the effects texting has had on the English language.
  • If you've been assigned a topic as part of a class, make sure you read the prompt carefully and fully understand it.

Step 3 Choose and read your sources carefully.

  • Keep in mind that it's better to do three sources well than to do five sources incompletely.
  • Annotate each source by writing notes in the margins. This allows you to keep track of your train of thought, developing ideas, etc.

Step 4 Develop a thesis...

  • Example: Texting has had a positive impact on the English language as it has helped the millennial generation create their own form of the language.

Step 5 Re-read your source material for items to support your thesis.

  • If you wish to take on a claim by an opponent of your idea, and to poke holes in it, you should also find some ideas or quotes that go against your thesis statement, and plan ways to disprove them. This is called a concession, refutation, or rebuttal, which can strengthen your argument if you do it well.
  • Example : For the thesis statement listed above, excellent sources would include quotes from linguists discussing the new words that have developed through 'text-speak', statistics that show the English language has evolved with almost every generation, and facts that show students still have the ability to write with the use of grammar and spelling (which your opponents would bring up as the main reason texting has had a negative effect on the English language).

Outlining Your Essay

Step 1 Outline the structure of your thesis.

  • The introductory paragraph: 1. An introductory sentence that acts as a hook, capturing the reader's interest. 2. Identification of the issue you will be discussing. 3. Your thesis statement.
  • The body paragraphs: 1. Topic sentence that gives one reason to support your thesis. 2. Your explanation and opinion of the topic sentence. 3. Support from your sources that backs up the claim you just made. 4. Explanation of the significance of the source(s).
  • The conclusion paragraph: 1. State further significance of your topic from the evidence and reasons you discussed in the essay. 2. A profound thought or thoughtful ending for your paper.

Step 2 Use a more creative structure to present your thesis.

  • Example/illustration. This may be a detailed recount, summary, or direct quote from your source material that provides major support for your point of view. You may use more than one example or illustration, if your paper calls for it. You should not, however, make your paper a series of examples at the expense of supporting your thesis.
  • Straw man. With this technique, you present an argument opposed to the argument stated in your thesis, then show the weaknesses and flaws of the counter-argument. This format shows your awareness of the opposition and your readiness to answer it. You present the counter-argument right after your thesis, followed by the evidence to refute it, and end with a positive argument that supports your thesis. [5] X Research source
  • Concession. Essays with concessions are structured similar to those using the straw man technique, but they acknowledge the validity of the counter-argument while showing that the original argument is stronger. This structure is good for presenting papers to readers who hold the opposing viewpoint.
  • Comparison and contrast. This structure compares similarities and contrasts differences between two subjects or sources to show the facets of both. Writing an essay with this structure requires a careful reading of your source material to find both subtle and major points of similarity and difference. This kind of essay can present its arguments source-by-source or by points of similarity or difference.

Step 3 Create an outline appropriate for a background or review synthesis essay.

  • Summary. This structure presents summaries of each of your relevant sources, making a progressively stronger argument for your thesis. It provides specific evidence to support your point of view, but usually omits presenting your own opinions. It's most commonly used for background and review essays.
  • List of reasons. This is a series of sub-points that flow from the main point of your paper as stated in its thesis. Each reason is supported with evidence. As with the summary method, reasons should become progressively more important, with the most important reason last.

Writing Your Essay

Step 1 Write your first draft according to your outline.

  • Your essay should have an introductory paragraph that includes your thesis , a body to present evidence that supports your thesis, and a conclusion that summarizes your point of view.

Step 2 Write in the third person.

  • Lengthy quotes of three lines or more should generally be set off as block quotes to better call attention to them. [7] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source

Finalizing Your Essay

Step 1 Revise your essay.

  • Ask someone else to proofread your paper. The saying “two heads are better than one” still holds true. Ask a friend or colleague what would they add or remove from the paper. Most importantly, does your argument make sense, and is it clearly supported by your sources?

Step 2 Proofread your paper.

  • Read the paper aloud to guarantee that you don't accidentally add in or take out words when reading in your head.
  • If you can, get a friend or classmate to proofread your essay as well.

Step 3  Cite your...

  • Example of citing in an AP synthesis essay: McPherson claims “texting has changed the English language in a positive way--it has given a new generation their own unique way to communicate” (Source E).
  • For college essays, you'll most likely use MLA format. Whichever format you use, be consistent in its use. You may also be asked to use APA or Chicago style.

Step 4 Title your essay.

  • Example title: : English and the iPhone: Exploring the Benefits of 'Text-Speak'

Outline Template

can a synthesis essay be 4 paragraphs

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Just as your title should fit your essay instead of writing your essay to fit the title, your thesis, once chosen, should direct your subsequent research instead of subsequent research altering your thesis � unless you find you've adopted an unsupportable thesis. Thanks Helpful 21 Not Helpful 8

can a synthesis essay be 4 paragraphs

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About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a synthesis essay, start by coming up with a thesis statement that you can support using all of the sources you've read for your essay. For example, your thesis statement could be "Texting has had a positive impact on the English language." Once you've got your thesis, go through your sources to find specific quotes, facts, and statistics that back up your claim. Structure your essay so it has an introduction that includes your thesis statement, a body that includes your arguments and evidence, and a conclusion that wraps everything up. For more tips on structuring your synthesis essay, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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can a synthesis essay be 4 paragraphs

How to Write a Synthesis Essay

can a synthesis essay be 4 paragraphs

it requires researching several sources to come up with your idea, but it isn’t very different than a research essay or other academic writing assignments that students will be familiar with. This article will guide you through all the elements of a synthesis essay, including the various types, formats, citation styles, outlines, topics, guides, and tips. 

At Studyfy, we understand that writing a synthesis essay can be a challenging task. That's why we offer a custom essay writing service to assist students with their assignments. Our team of expert writers has experience in writing various types of essays, including synthesis essays, and can help you with your assignment. With our online paper writing service , you can be sure that your paper will be well-researched, properly formatted, and tailored to your specific needs. Contact us today and let us help you write a top-quality synthesis essay that meets all your requirements.

What is a Synthesis Essay?

At its core, a synthesis essay asks the writer to analyze several sources and come up with their own opinion on a subject. Think of it as creating your thesis statement based on the information you have collected from several places. It’s actually not unlike any other essay. Synthesis means combining elements of separate materials or abstract entities into a single or unified entity, and that’s what a synthesis essay does. 

Types of Synthesis Essay

There are three main types of synthesis essays:

A Review Essay

A review essay collects available information about a topic to suggest what further research needs to be done. It focuses on analyzing available sources rather than making a point of its own. 

An Argument Essay

These types of essays use multiple sources to back up a claim or argument. Like a typical argumentative essay, the goal is to convince the reader that your viewpoint on an issue is correct providing evidence from research.

An Explanatory Essay

The goal of this type of essay is to present information about a specific topic from various perspectives. Do not make an argument, just explain the topic with every point of information backed by research. 

Synthesis Essay Structure 

A synthesis essay follows the traditional structure of a 5 paragraph essay but with a few modifications. An outline is always helpful to plan any form of writing, but it is especially useful when writing this type of essay because of the many sources and various arguments to keep track of. An outline helps plan an essay and ensures that all the major points are covered as well as helps develop a flow to the paper. 

The basic synthesis essay structure follows the 5 paragraph essay format. 

Introduction - Briefly describe what the paper will be about. Start with a hook to engage the reader from the very beginning, followed by a brief description, and make sure to include your thesis statement. 

Body Paragraphs - The first body paragraph typically contains a counterargument to your thesis. Comprehensive research and proper analysis of a subject requires understanding the issue from the opposing viewpoint as well. By presenting the most popular counterargument and debunking it, you make your overall case stronger. The next body paragraphs should present information supporting your thesis.

Conclusion - The conclusion wraps up your paper by summarizing the main points and stating how you proved your thesis with facts. 

Synthesis Essay Outline

Here’s an outline template for you to use. As you do your research and come up with arguments, fill this template with information. 


  • Background information
  • The importance of the issue
  • Thesis statement

Body Paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence with a counterargument
  • Evidence for the counterargument
  • Invalidate the counterargument
  • Evidence and facts backing your claim


  • Transition to body paragraph 2

Body Paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence supporting your thesis
  • Quote a source
  • Evidence for your claim
  • Analysis of your claim
  • How it connects to and supports your claim
  • One sentence summary
  • Transition to body paragraph 3

Body Paragraph 3

  • Quote a different source 
  • How it connects to and supports your claim 
  • One sentence summary 
  • Connect all research backing your claim
  • Transition to the conclusion
  • Summary of the main points made in the essay
  • Restate your thesis
  • Your main argument and the most important evidence
  • One sentence about why our view is important

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How to Write a Synthesis Paper

Now that you know what a synthesis essay is, what the structure should be, and have an outline to fill, let’s get to how to write a synthesis essay!

How to Start a Synthesis Essay

The first thing you need to do is come up with an appropriate topic. If you’ve been given a prompt, make sure to read it carefully and follow all the instructions.

If you have to choose your own topic make sure that the issue you choose has opposing views so that you can find research backing both sides. 

Find the sweet spot between a topic that’s too broad, which can be difficult to address fully, and a topic that’s too marrow, which might not have enough available information. 

Explore our lists of possible essay topics to get an idea of what you may want to write about and read some example essays to become familiar with the structure and style. 

Once you have a topic in mind, find at least 3 sources and read them thoroughly while taking notes on specific facts to help build your thesis statement.

Writing a Synthesis Essay Thesis

After you’ve found a topic you find interesting and that complies with the prompt, your research should guide your thesis statement. What does your research say about the topic you’ve chosen? Your thesis is the main claim you are making in the essay. This doesn’t have to mean that you follow what a majority of the research says, just make sure you have enough evidence to back up your perspective as well as evidence to refute the main counter-arguments. 

Your thesis statement should be written as a complete sentence, identifying the subject and stating your viewpoint on it. This will be the guiding idea and the main point you will try and prove through the body paragraphs. 

Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs are the main text of your essay. This is where you will present your research, support your thesis, and build your case. 

The first body paragraph usually describes a major argument against your thesis to show why the argument is wrong, or why your argument is better. There are several different approaches you can take to achieve this.

The straw man technique involves presenting the main counterargument and then destroying it with evidence showing its flaws. It can be a powerful way to strengthen your claim and it shows that you have researched opposing views. End a body paragraph using this technique with a transition sentence that introduces your main statement supporting your thesis.
The concession technique can be thought of as a softer version of the straw man. You present evidence that goes against your thesis and acknowledges that it makes sense, but show that your argument is stronger. This technique is useful for convincing people that hold the opposing view to what you believe. By agreeing with and accepting that the opposing viewpoints have some merits, it put the reader in a less hostile frame of mind.
The comparison and contrast technique presents a nuanced analysis of both sides. This is the most difficult technique because it requires a deep understanding of the issue as well as careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of the argument. When pulled off successfully though, it is incredibly powerful and shows an in-depth understanding of the issue. 

The body paragraphs after the first should provide evidence supporting your thesis. These can contain direct quotes from your sources. Your analysis should be clear and flow logically from the research. Towards the end of each paragraph connect the evidence directly to the thesis statement to build a strong case for your claim.

Your conclusion should state all the main points of the essay as well as the main takeaways. Summarize the evidence that backs your claim and reiterate your thesis statement. Make sure to acknowledge the opposing viewpoint and state why your perspective is either correct or stronger.

Synthesis Essay Format

Citation is important for any paper, but especially for one that is research-driven. The three main citation styles are MLA, APA, and Chicago. Each one has its own synthesis essay format and conventions described below. 

MLA stands for Modern Language Association and is a citation style used for papers in the Humanities like art, literature, and philology. These are the key formatting rules for MLA:

  • Font should be Times New Roman
  • Font size should be 12
  • The entire paper should be double-spaced
  • Margins should be 1 inch
  • Titles should be centered
  • Include your last name and the page number on each page
  • The header should contain your name, your professor’s name, the date, and the course code
  • The research page at the end should be titled “Works Cited”
  • Journal Citation Format: Last, First M. “Publication Title.” Journal Title Series Volume. Issue (Year Published): Page(s). Database Name. Web. Date Month Year Accessed.
  • Newspaper (Print) Citation Format: Author's Last Name, First Name. "Title of Article: Subtitle if Any." Name of Newspaper, Date of Publication, p. Page Number.
  • Newspaper (Online) Citation Format: Author's Last Name, First Name. "Title of Article: Subtitle if Any." Title of Website, Date of Publication, URL. Accessed Day Month Year site was visited.
  • Website Citation Format: Author's Last Name, First Name. Title of Website, Name of Organization Affiliated with the Website, Date of copyright or date last modified/updated, URL. Accessed Day Month Year site was visited.

APA stands for American Psychological Association and is a citation style used for science, education, and psychology. These are the key formatting rules for APA:

  • Include a Title Page
  • Include an Abstract
  • Include the page number on each page
  • The header should contain the page number and the paper’s title
  • The research page at the end should be titled “References”
  • Journal Citation Format: Author’s last name, Author’s first initial. Author’s middle initial. (Year, Month Date Published). Article title. Journal Name, Volume (Issue), page number(s).
  • Newspaper Print Citation Format: Author, A. (Year, Month Date of Publication). Article title. Newspaper Title, pp. Xx-xx.
  • Newspaper Online Citation Format: Author, A. (Year, Month Date of Publication). Article title. Newspaper Title, Retrieved from newspaper homepage URL
  • Website Citation Format: Author’s last name, Initial(s). (Year, Month Day of publication). Title of work. Website. https://URL

The Chicago style is used for history, business, and the fine arts. These are the key formatting rules for the Chicago style:

  • The space between lines should be double-spaced
  • Use half-inch indents for the beginning of every paragraph
  • Use the full names of people and organizations
  • The research page at the end should be titled “Bibliography”
  • There are 2 main ways of citing sources, Author-Dates and Notes-Bibliography
  • Author-Dates uses parenthetical citations in the text referencing the source's author's last name and the year of publication.
  • Notes-Bibliography uses numbered footnotes in the text to direct readers to a short citation at the bottom of the page.
  • Both styles have a full bibliography as well
  • Full source citations are in alphabetical order

Did you like our inspiring Synthesis Essay Guide?

For more help, tap into our pool of professional writers and get expert essay editing services!

Synthesis Essay Topics

Here are 30 topics to inspire you. You can think of these as brief synthesis essay thesis examples.

What is the impact of culture on academic success?
How does social media influence feelings of loneliness?
How does human crated sound pollution impact urban wildlife?
What will the impact of self-driving cars be on the trucking industry?
Were superheroes better role models in the past as compared to now?
How can private drones be policed?
Will machine learning ever be able to make human artists obsolete?
Does privatization of infrastructure make sense for developing countries?
What would be the best way to communicate with aliens?
Are there negative aspects of meditation?
What is the biggest potential reason for a potential World War III?
Do tall people make better leaders?
Self-fulfilling prophecies and confirmation bias explain why some predictions come true.
What can we learn from interactions with indigenous tribes?
What are the key steps developed countries must take to manage future pandemics?
How have volcanos shaped the Earth’s climate?
What is the impact of snow on overall mood?
Is it possible to reduce the wage gap fairly?
Does having pets enhance the quality of life?
Has the rise of visual media killed imagination?
Which societies in the past have been matriarchal?
How can video games help those with mental disorders?
Which is the worst seven deadly sin?
Why Anime is better than western animation
Is honor beneficial or detrimental in sports?
What are the problems with social Darwinism?
Can anyone become a model now?
What does it take to be considered an expert?
Where is the line between advertising and manipulation?
Is there an objective idea of ethical behavior?

Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing your essay.

  • Write in the third person
  • Make sure your research comes from credible sources
  • Cite every fact
  • Write multiple drafts of your essay
  • Spend time editing and proofreading
  • Organize your arguments clearly
  • Think about your audience
  • Use technical terms
  • Use paragraph transitions
  • Use a synthesis essay outline template
  • Use present tense for MLA
  • Use past tense for APA

What Not To Do

  • Use informal language
  • Rely only on opinion
  • Use the passive voice
  • Stick to the outline template exactly
  • Use fewer than three sources
  • Use more than five sources
  • Submit the first draft

A synthesis essay might be more technical than the types of writing you’re used to, but don’t stress too much. If you think about it as any other essay, but just a little more research-intensive, it’ll be easy to write. Choose a topic that you are interested in to make the research more fun. If you know about the topic, it will guide your research and make the writing flow more smoothly as well. Citations may seem daunting, but using a citation generator will make it a cinch!

If you need assistance with writing a synthesis essay, Studyfy has a team of qualified coursework writers who can provide you with high-quality, custom essays. Whether you need to order an essay online, or require help with essay editing or proofreading, our experts are available to assist you. Don't hesitate to contact us and say " write my essay for me " if you need any kind of academic assistance.

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How to write a synthesis essay

Picture of Duygu Demiröz

  • January 1, 2024

Synthesis essay is a challenging form of academic writing in which you combine multiple sources into a coherent and persuasive argument.

When writing one, better follow a series of basic steps that we will explain in the next paragraphs to write a great essay.

So let’s quickly start learning how to write a great synthesis essay.

Quick summary

  • Take the time to understand the essay prompt to grasp the requirements of the assignment.
  • Engage in extensive research and gather information from a variety of reputable sources.
  • Develop a strong thesis statement and outline.
  • Start writing your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Make sure to include smooth transitions between these paragraphs.
  • Use the proper citation or formatting (APA, MLA, etc.) and make sure you proofread your essay.

Synthesis essay definition

What is a synthesis essay?

Your primary goal with a synthesis essay is to provide a unique perspective, supported by evidence. For example, suppose you have two distinct essays or research papers on “excessive social media usage” and “the effects of social media on psychology.”

In your synthesis essay, you can blend these two sources into a cohesive argument like “the psychological impacts of excessive social media usage on individuals.”

Synthesis essay introduction

The introduction is the opening paragraph of a synthesis essay, where you present the topic and provide background information. Like a usual introduction , it should not be more than 10% of your essay.

  • It should include a clear and concise thesis statement that states the main argument or viewpoint of the essay.
  • It should reflect the synthesis of information from multiple sources.

Now let’s have a look at the introduction example below. 

Synthesis essay introduction example

Introduction, body paragraphs.

The body paragraphs form the core of the synthesis essay. Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect of the argument and present evidence and analysis from the sources to support the thesis statement. When writing body paragraphs: 

  • Use topic sentences to introduce the main idea of each paragraph
  • Make use of transition words to create a smooth flow between paragraphs.

Let’s have a look at a body paragraph example.

Synthesis essay body paragraph example

Synthesis essay conclusion.

The conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay. A compelling conclusion leaves a lasting impact on the reader, reinforcing the essay’s main message. 

  • Restate the thesis statement slightly different.
  • Summarize the main points discussed in the body paragraphs and emphasize the significance of the overall synthesis 

Let’s have a look at the components of a conclusion paragraph below. 

Synthesis essay conclusion example

Now that we’ve seen a short example of synthesis essay, let’s continue with the steps to write a great one.

Steps on writing a synthesis essay

In this section, we’ll guide you through the writing process with each steps explained in detail and examples. 

steps of synthesis essay

Step 1 - Understand your assignment

  • Depending on your field of study, you may need to adhere to standard formatting styles such as MLA , APA , or Chicago.
  • Consider that formatting expectations may be different. Pay attention to certain guidelines provided by your instructor.

Example of a synthesis essay assignment

  • Investigate the impact of artificial intelligence on the job market and society.
  • Synthesize at least three different sources, including academic articles, news reports, and opinion pieces, to discuss the benefits and challenges posed by AI's integration into various industries.
  • Consider the ethical implications, potential job displacement, and the role of policymakers in addressing these changes.
  • Use correct APA 7 citation format and make sure the essay is at least 1000 words.

So you see an example above, take some time to carefully review the prompt, and give particular attention to the formatting requirements. 

Step 2 - Read and annotate the sources

After finding relevant sources, read each one critically by highlighting key ideas and arguments. Annotating sources with concise summaries and evaluative comments helps in later stages of the essay writing process.

  • Academic Journals and Research Papers: These are scholarly articles written by experts in a particular field.
  • Books: Books: written by reputable authors and published by well-known publishers can be valuable sources of information.
  • Government Publications: Reports, statistics, and studies published by government agencies can be reliable sources of data.
  • Newspapers and Magazines: Articles from reputable newspapers and magazines can offer current and relevant information on various topics.

Step 3 - Draft a thesis statement

A well-crafted thesis statement forms the basis of any synthesis paper. It serves as the central argument, summarizing the synthesis of information gathered from selected sources. 

A compelling thesis statement should be clear, concise, and debatable as it sets the tone for the entire paper. 

Synthesis essay thesis statement example

....(introduction starts) ....(introduction continues) ....(introduction continues) The pursuit of space exploration has had profound effects on scientific advancement, global cooperation, and technological innovation, and has also raised ethical considerations. Thesis statement, which is usually the last sentence of your introduction

Step 4 - Create an outline

Creating an outline helps to organize the structure of the essay systematically. Using a formal approach with Roman numerals allows for an orderly arrangement of topics and supporting details.

With an outline , you can use subcategories to cite specific points and integrate references to various sources. Or simply structure your whole essay before you start. 

Synthesis essay outline example

Outline sample

  • Hook sentence
  • Background information
  • Thesis statement (Your argument & claim)
  • Topic sentene
  • Supporting detail 1
  • Supporting detail 2
  • Supporting evidence
  • Topic sentence
  • Counterpoint
  • Restatement of thesis
  • Summarize main points
  • Closing sentence

Step 5 - Start writing your essay

essay outline structure

With the outline, structure your essay into introduction , body paragraphs , and conclusion .  

First draft won’t be perfect, no worries. Here you simply start writing your essay from intro to the conclusion. 

Refer to our Introduction-Body-Conclusion examples above to complete this step!

Step 6 - Proofread your essay

  • Make sure your grammar is accurate and clear. If possible, use tools like Grammarly .
  • Read aloud your essay to notice details and mistakes.
  • Let your essay sit for a couple days and make someone else read it. They may notice the mistakes you've overseen.
  • Utilize an AI paraphrasing tool to check for any potential improvements in sentence structure and wording.

5-Paragraph Synthesis Essay Example

So now that you’ve seen all steps of writing a synthesis essay, it’s time to analyze a 5-paragraph example to have practical information. Simply see the essay example below and analyze how each sentence contributes to overall structure of essay. 

The Rise of Telecommuting: A Blessing or a Curse?

And that’s all for today. If you want to keep learning more about academic writing, feel free to visit our extensive Learning Center or YouTube Channel . 

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57 Synthesis

Synthesis writing.

Although at its most basic level a synthesis involves combining two or more summaries, synthesis writing is more difficult than it might at first appear because this combining must be done in a meaningful way and the final essay must generally be thesis-driven.  In composition courses, “synthesis” commonly refers to writing about printed texts, drawing together particular themes or traits that you observe in those texts and organizing the material from each text according to those themes or traits.  Sometimes you may be asked to synthesize your own ideas, theory, or research with those of the texts you have been assigned. In your other college classes you’ll probably find yourself synthesizing  information from graphs and tables, pieces of music, and art works as well.  The  key  to any kind of synthesis is the same.

Synthesis in Every Day Life

Whenever you report to a friend the things several other friends have said about a film or CD you engage in synthesis.  People synthesize information naturally to help other see the connections between things they learn; for example, you have probably stored up a mental data bank of the various things you’ve heard about particular professors.  If your data bank contains several negative comments, you might synthesize that information and use it to help you decide not to take a class from that particular professor.  Synthesis is related to but not the same as classification, division, or comparison and contrast.  Instead of attending to categories or finding similarities and differences, synthesizing sources is a matter of pulling them together into some kind of harmony.  Synthesis searches for links between materials for the purpose of constructing a thesis or theory.

Synthesis Writing Outside of College

The basic research report (described below as a background synthesis) is very common in the business world.  Whether one is proposing to open a new store or expand a product line, the report that must inevitably be written will synthesize information and arrange it by topic rather than by source.  Whether you want to present information on child rearing to a new mother, or details about your town to a new resident, you’ll find yourself synthesizing too. And just as in college, the quality and usefulness of your synthesis will depend on your accuracy and organization.

Key Features of a Synthesis

(1)  It accurately reports information from the sources using different phrases and sentences; (2)  It is organized in such a way that readers can immediately see where the information from the sources overlap;. (3)  It makes sense of the sources and helps the reader understand them in greater depth.

The Background Synthesis

In the process of writing his or her background synthesis, the student explored the sources in a new way and become an expert on the topic.  Only when one has reached this degree of expertise is one ready to formulate a thesis.  Frequently writers of background synthesis papers develop a thesis before they have finished.  In the previous example, the student might notice that no two colleges seem to agree on what constitutes “co-curricular,” and decide to research this question in more depth, perhaps examining trends in higher education and offering an argument about what this newest trend seems to reveal.  [ More information on developing a research thesis .] The background synthesis requires that you bring  together background information on a topic and organize it by topic rather than by source.  Instructors often assign background syntheses at the early stages of the research process, before students have developed a thesis–and they can be helpful to students conducting large research projects even if they are not assigned.  In a background synthesis of  Internet information that could help prospective students select a college, for example, one paragraph might discuss residential life and synthesize brief descriptions of the kinds of things students might find out about living on campus (cited of course), another might discuss the academic program, again synthesizing information from the web sites of several colleges, while a third might synthesize information about co-curricular activities.  The completed paper would be a wonderful introduction to internet college searching.  It contains no thesis, but it does have a purpose:  to present the information that is out there in a helpful and logical way.

[See also “ Preparing to Write the Synthesis Essay ,” “ Writing the Synthesis Essa y,” and “ Revision .”]

A Thesis-driven Synthesis

On the other hand, all research papers are also synthesis papers in that they combine the information you have found in ways that help readers to see that information and the topic in question in a new way.  A research paper with a weak thesis (such as: “media images of women help to shape women’s sense of how they should look”) will organize its findings to show how this is so without having to spend much time discussing other arguments (in this case, other things that also help to shape women’s sense of how they should look).  A paper with a strong thesis (such as “the media is the single most important factor in shaping women’s sense of how they should look”) will spend more time discussing arguments that it rejects (in this case, each paragraph will show how the media is more influential than other Sometimes there is very little obvious difference between a background synthesis and a thesis-driven synthesis, especially if the paper answers the question “what information must we know in order to understand this topic, and why?”  The answer to that question forms the thesis of the resulting paper, but it may not be a particularly controversial thesis.  There may be some debate about what background information is required, or about why, but in most cases the papers will still seem more like a report than an argument.  The difference will be most visible in the topic sentences to each paragraph because instead of simply introducing the material for the paragraph that will follow, they will also link back to the thesis and assert that this information is essential because…

factors in that particular aspect of women’s sense of how they should look”).

[See also  thesis-driven research papers .] [See also “ Preparing to Write the Synthesis Essay ,” “ Writing the Synthesis Essa y,” and “ Revision .”]

A Synthesis of the Literature

Because each discipline has specific rules and expectations, you should consult your professor or a guide book for that specific discipline if you are asked to write a review of the literature and aren’t sure how to do it. In many upper level social sciences classes you may be asked to begin research papers with a synthesis of the sources.  This part of the paper which may be one paragraph or several pages depending on the length of the paper–is similar to the  background synthesis .  Your primary purpose is to show readers that you are familiar with the field and are thus qualified to offer your own opinions.  But your larger purpose is to show that in spite of all  this wonderful research, no one has addressed the problem in the way that you intend to in your paper.  This gives your synthesis a purpose, and even a thesis of sorts.

Preparing to write your Synthesis Essay

Sometimes the wording of your assignment will direct you to what sorts of themes or traits you should look for in your synthesis.  At other times, though, you may be assigned two or more sources and told to synthesize them.  In such cases you need to formulate your own purpose, and develop your own perspectives and interpretations.  A systematic preliminary comparison will help. Begin by summarizing briefly the points, themes, or traits that the texts have in common (you might find summary-outline notes  useful here).  Explore different ways to organize the information depending on what you find or what you want to demonstrate ( see above ).  You might find it helpful to make several different outlines or plans before you decide which to use.  As the most important aspect of a synthesis is its organization, you can’t spend too long on this aspect of your paper! Regardless of whether you are synthesizing information from prose sources, from laboratory data, or from tables and graphs, your preparation for the synthesis will very likely involve  comparison . It may involve  analysis , as well, along with classification, and division as you work on your organization.

Writing the Synthesis Essay

The introduction (usually one paragraph :

A synthesis essay should be organized so that others can understand the sources and evaluate your comprehension of them and their presentation of specific data, themes, etc. The following format works well:

  • Contains a one-sentence statement that sums up the focus of your synthesis. 2.    Also introduces the texts to be synthesized: (i)  Gives the title of each source (following the citation guidelines of whatever style sheet you are using); (ii)  Provides the name of each author; (ii)  Sometimes also provides pertinent background information about the authors, about the texts to be summarized, or about the general topic from which the texts are drawn.

The body of a synthesis essay :

This should be organized by theme, point, similarity, or aspect of the topic.  Your organization will be determined by the assignment or by the patterns you see in the material you are synthesizing.  The organization is the most important part of a synthesis, so try out more than one format. Be sure that each paragraph : 1.     Begins with a sentence or phrase that informs readers of the topic of the paragraph; 2.     Includes information from more than one source; 3.     Clearly indicates which material comes from which source using lead in phrases and in-text citations.  [Beware of plagiarism:  Accidental plagiarism most often occurs when students are synthesizing sources and do not indicate where the synthesis ends and their own comments begin or vice verse.] 4.    Shows the similarities or differences between the different sources in ways that make the paper as informative as possible; 5.    Represents the texts fairly–even if that seems to weaken the paper! Look upon yourself as a synthesizing machine;  you are simply repeating what the source says, in fewer words and in your own words.  But the fact that you are using your own words does not mean that you are in anyway changing what the source says.

Conclusion :

When you have finished your paper, write a conclusion reminding readers of the most significant themes you have found and the ways they connect to the overall topic.  You may also want to suggest further research or comment on things that it was not possible for you to discuss in the paper. If you are writing a background synthesis, in some cases it may be appropriate for you to offer an interpretation of the material or take a position (thesis).  Check this option with your instructor before you write the final draft of your paper.

Checking your own writing or that of your peers

Read a peer’s synthesis and then answer the questions below.  The information provided will help the writer check that his or her paper does what he or she intended (for example, it is not necessarily wrong for a synthesis to include any of the writer’s opinions, indeed, in a thesis-driven paper this is essential; however, the reader must be able to identify which opinions originated with the writer of the paper and which came from the sources).

  • What do you like best about your peer’s synthesis? (Why? How might he or she do more of it?);
  • Is it clear what is being synthesized? (i.e.: Did your peer list the source(s), and cite it/them correctly?);
  • Is it always clear which source your peer is talking about at any given moment? (Mark any places where it is not clear);
  • Is the thesis of each original text clear in the synthesis? (Write out what you think each thesis is);
  • did you identify the same theses as your peer? (If not, how do they differ?);
  • did your peer miss any key points from his or her synthesis? (If so, what are they?);
  • did your peer include any of his own opinions in his or her synthesis? (If so, what are they?);
  • Where there any points in the synthesis where you were lost because a transition was missing or material seems to have been omitted?  (If so, where and how might it be fixed?);
  • What is the organizational structure of the synthesis essay? (It might help to draw a plan/diagram);
  • Does this structure work?  (If not, how might your peer revise it?);
  • How is each paragraph structured?  (It might help to draw a plan/diagram);
  • Is this method effective?  (If not, how should your peer revise?);
  • Was there a mechanical, grammatical, or spelling error that annoyed you as you read the paper?  (If so, how could the author fix it?  Did you notice this error occurring more than once?)   Do not comment on every typographical or other error you see.  It is a waste of time to carefully edit a paper before it is revised!
  • What other advice do you have for the author of this paper?

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Writing a Multiple-Source (Synthesis) Essay


To develop a body paragraph, follow a basic " three-step " approach:

1.)  Decide on a main point and then state that main point in a sentence (the topic sentence for the paragraph).  For example :

  • � One common theme that emerges from these essays is that watching movies and reading books are social acts .�
  • "One noticeable similarity in the Dillard and Hughes essays is that children are causing trouble for adults."
  • "A main element in the process of death is the stage of grief."

2.)  Next, reread the essays looking for �evidence� to use to support your main idea.  For example :

  • I might look for examples or quotes in the Ebert, Welty, Toth, and King essays about the "social" act of watching movies and reading books.
  • I would summarize the parts of the Dillard and Hughes essays where the children are causing trouble for the adults.
  • I would summarize or quote from the Woolf and Momaday essays when the writers talk about grieving the loss of the animal or family member.

3.)  Finally, you don�t want to abruptly end your paragraph and just leave the examples , summaries, or quotes just hanging there.  You want to �drive home� your point, emphasize what is important about it, add your own commentary (thoughts, feelings, opinions) or your own experiences about the main idea and/or the examples.

  • In essence, you want to ask and answer the question, �So What?�

For more information and examples (from a different essay) about developing paragraphs, click here .


Whenever you use someone else's words or ideas in your writing, you must let the reader know the source of those words or ideas.  It really doesn't matter whether you have paraphrased , summarized , or quoted -- in each case, you must let the reader know whose material you are using.

Up to this point, your writing assignments have focused on one reading selection at a time.  In them you have used simple transitions to tell the reader when you were using material from the reading selection.  There are, however, more formal methods of documentation that you will need to learn to use as you write in college classes.

The MLA (Modern Language Association) is one method of documentation, used primarily in the humanities.  It uses parentheses within the paper to identify the author and page number of a particular passage that is paraphrased, summarized, or quoted.  It also uses a separate page at the end of the paper to give more detailed and complete identification of the sources used.  Because we are using "common texts" in this class -- texts that everyone has, either from our book or on handouts I have provided -- you do not need to write a separate "Works Cited" page for this paper.

Use these guidelines to help you:

  • Each paraphrase, summary, and quotation should be identified by author and page number in parentheses.  Do not use the author's first name within the parentheses.
  • If the author's name is already included in the "signal phrase" in the sentence, it does not need to be repeated in the parentheses.
  • No punctuation is placed between the author's last name and the page number.
  • The parenthetical citation is placed at the end of the borrowed material but before the period at the end of the sentence.


You have three choices when you take someone else�s words / ideas from their writing to put into your own writing:

1.) QUOTATION: copy the words and punctuation exactly like it is in the other writer�s essay; be extremely accurate; use quotation marks.

2.) SUMMARY: you use your own words to �shrink� down another writer�s ideas to the main things you want to highlight or emphasize; even though you use your own words, you must still give credit to the writer.

3.) PARAPHRASE: you use your own words to �translate� or �restate� more clearly another writer�s ideas; your paraphrase should be roughly the same length as the passage you are paraphrasing; you will need to change both many of the words and the sentence structure(s) of the passage you are paraphrasing; even though you use your own words, you must still give credit to the writer.

Finally, there are three steps to take to put a summary, a paraphrase, or a quotation into your paper :

1.)  First, use a �signal phrase.�   Here, you are giving credit to the person who the words/ideas belong to and you are �signaling� to your reader that you are putting something in your paper that doesn�t belong to you.  Examples of signal phrases include �According to Annie Dillard, ... � or �As George Orwell says , ... � or � Susan Allen Toth states that ... �

2.)  Second, put in the summary, paraphrase, or quotation.   (You can also use a combination of summary, paraphrase, and quotation.)

3.)  Third, use a �parenthetical citation.�   If you have put the author�s name in your sentence, all you need in the citation is the page number, for example (16).  If you did not put the author�s name in your sentence, then include the name with the page number, for example ( Dillard 16).


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  1. Guide to Synthesis Essays: How to Write a Synthesis Essay

    The writing process for composing a good synthesis essay requires curiosity, research, and original thought to argue a certain point or explore an idea. Synthesis essay writing involves a great deal of intellectual work, but knowing how to compose a compelling written discussion of a topic can give you an edge in many fields, from the social sciences to engineering.

  2. Synthesis Essays: A Step-by-Step How- To Guide

    How to write body paragraphs for synthesis essays: 1.Pick three points to write about from your list of points about which the writers agreed or disagreed. When picking three to write about, pick the three that offer you ample evidence. 2.Decide the order of the three points to be written about in your body paragraphs.

  3. PDF Creating Effective Synthesis Essays

    Outside material needs to be fully integrated into the flow of your ideas in your essay. Writers need to connect the evidence — expert testimony, studies, statistics, charts, etc. — from outside sources to the purpose of paragraph and essay overall to communicate a unified message clearly. Connect your claims to the evidence.

  4. How to Write a Synthesis Essay: The Ultimate Handbook

    Crafting a strong synthesis essay requires careful planning and effective techniques. Here are five essential tips to help you write your best paper: Diverse Source Selection: Choose a range of reliable sources that offer different viewpoints on your topic. Make sure they're recent and relevant to your subject.

  5. How to Write a Synthesis Essay

    Step 4. Write the Body Paragraphs. Using your outline, discuss each point from your source material in more depth, ... Different Types of Synthesis Essays. While you can follow our steps for any type of synthesis essay, yours will probably fall under one of two categories: explanatory or argumentative. ...

  6. How to Write a Perfect Synthesis Essay for the AP Language Exam

    Paragraph 1: The prompt presents and briefly explains the topic that you'll be writing your synthesis essay about. That topic is the concept of eminent domain. Paragraph 2: The prompt presents a specific claim about the concept of eminent domain in this paragraph: Eminent domain is productive and beneficial.This paragraph instructs you to decide whether you want to defend, challenge, or ...

  7. How To Write A Synthesis Paragraph: Step By Step Guide

    Conclusion. In conclusion, writing synthesis paragraphs is a skill that can be mastered with practice and careful attention to detail. By following the steps outlined in this guide for how to write a synthesis paragraph and incorporating the tips provided, writers can effectively synthesize information from multiple sources to construct compelling arguments and narratives.

  8. How to Write a Synthesis Essay

    Your essay should have an introductory paragraph that includes your thesis, a body to present evidence that supports your thesis, and a conclusion that summarizes your point of view. 2. Write in the third person. Writing in the third person means using "he," "she," "it", and using complete, unambiguous sentences.

  9. How to Write a Synthesis Essay

    The basic synthesis essay structure follows the 5 paragraph essay format. Introduction - Briefly describe what the paper will be about. Start with a hook to engage the reader from the very beginning, followed by a brief description, and make sure to include your thesis statement. Body Paragraphs - The first body paragraph typically contains a ...

  10. How to Write a Synthesis Essay (Steps & Examples)

    Step 1 - Understand your assignment. First, you must carefully analyze the essay prompt (assignment instructions), identifying the core concepts and keywords that provide direction. Once you understand the prompt, it is crucial to gather an extensive range of sources, such as academic papers, articles, and books.

  11. Synthesis Essay

    A synthesis essay can be argumentative, but not all of them are argumentative. ... This type of essay is often written in 5 paragraphs: one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and one ...


    A synthesis essay uses a variety of sources to form a new idea, answer a question, or defend an argumentative thesis statement. A synthesis does not summarize but shows the connections among the different sources and the writers' ideas. A successful synthesis essay overviews research on the chosen topic, highlights the connections among ...

  13. How to Write a Synthesis Essay ⇒ Synthesizing Explained

    How to Write a Synthesis Essay (4 Steps) Without a plan, writing a good synthesis essay might turn into a daunting and long-standing process. ... you may want to change its position, placing it at the beginning of the paragraph. The next step of synthesis essay writing would be using keywords to note the sources' tone. That is, the papers can ...

  14. PDF Writing a Synthesis Essay

    3. Tips for an effective synthesis essay: • Establish your purpose to shape the way you want to argue and form your thesis. The thesis is the main claim or idea of your essay. • Select your sources and become familiar with them so that you can discuss them in relationship to your thesis and supporting argument(s).

  15. Synthesis

    Writing the Synthesis Essay. The introduction (usually one paragraph: A synthesis essay should be organized so that others can understand the sources and evaluate your comprehension of them and their presentation of specific data, themes, etc. The following format works well: Contains a one-sentence statement that sums up the focus of your ...

  16. 17.3 The Structure of a Synthesis Essay

    The authors of "Writing a Synthesis Essay" characterize the Comparison/Contrast synthesis essay as having the following components: Summaries of each source, showing their similarities and differences. Movement from point-to-point, back and forth between items being compared. Blocks of discussion topics, in which one item is discussed ...

  17. Writing a Synthesis Essay -- Body Paragraphs and Sources

    Writing a Multiple-Source (Synthesis) Essay. Part Two . DEVELOPING YOUR PARAGRAPHS: To develop a body paragraph, follow a basic "three-step " approach: 1.) Decide on a main point and then state that main point in a sentence (the topic sentence for the paragraph). For example: " One common theme that emerges from these essays is that watching ...

  18. How to Write a Synthesis Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

    Furthermore, the synthesis essays can be similar to analytical essays, argumentative essays, or compare and contrast essays. Synthesis Essay Types. There are three types of a synthesis essay: 1. Argument Synthesis Essay ... Your essay should have an introduction paragraph with your thesis statement at the end of it. A body with evidence that ...

  19. Synthesis

    In a summary, you share the key points from an individual source and then move on and summarize another source. In synthesis, you need to combine the information from those multiple sources and add your own analysis of the literature. This means that each of your paragraphs will include multiple sources and citations, as well as your own ideas ...

  20. Synthesis Essay Materials

    The two synthesis essay questions below are examples of the question type that has been one of the three free-response questions on the AP English Language and Composition Exam as of the May 2007 exam. The synthesis question asks students to synthesize information from a variety of sources to inform their own discussion of a topic. Students are given a 15-minute reading period to accommodate ...

  21. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    inconsistency in your essay. • suggests an answer complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of discussion. If the question is too vague, it won't suggest a line of argument. The question should elicit reflection and argument rather than summary or description. • can be explored using the sources you have available for the assignment,

  22. Synthesizing Sources

    Example of synthesizing sources. Let's take a look at an example where sources are not properly synthesized, and then see what can be done to improve it. Example: Poor synthesis. Lenneberg (1967) theorized that language acquisition could occur only within a critical period of development between infancy and puberty.