The word “synthesis” is defined as a combination of elements to form a connected whole. Thus, a synthesis essay definition is an essay that combines different ideas into a whole to prove a point (otherwise called the thesis). Often, it comes with a text that you should analyze.
Table Of Contents
A key factor of writing a synthesis essay is an analysis of a given text or a prompt. In order to successfully analyze it, you must comprehend the text’s purpose, rhetoric, and the argument that the author’s claim, in other words, you are answering the question: “So what?”. Then, you must build your own claim, and write an essay around that.
Most Common Topics
A synthesis essay prompt must be negotiable. Like in the EssayPro's example above, Andrew Jackson’s negative views on Native American people were widely supported, today, however, they would be appalling. Depending on your assignment, you may have to choose a primary text. Choose a text that might have opposing viewpoints.
Good topics would be ones that are debatable, for example:
- Daylight savings
- Minimum wage
- Immigration policy
- Global warming
- Gun control
- Social media
How Do I Write A Thesis?
Once you pick a topic of your paper, read your sources and establish your position. Make sure you thoroughly analyze the sources and get a good understanding of them, structure your claim or argument and write your thesis.
Example: Andrew Jackson’s fear of the Native American “savages” reflects the prejudices and ideas of the colonist people in the Union and the Congress.*
How Do I Write An Outline?
Creating an outline will help maintain the structure of your paper. If your essay is split into three parts, split your outline into three chunks. Paste supporting evidence, sub-arguments, and specific points in the appropriate sections. Make sure that every point somehow proves the claim in your thesis. Extra information or tangents will only hinder your essay. However, if information goes against your central claim, then you should acknowledge it as it will make your essay stronger. Make sure you have read all of your sources. When writing about the sources, do not summarize them; synthesis denotes analysis, not plot-summary.
- Main point 1
- Main point 2
- Main point 3
- Main point 1
- Evidence (quote from a source)
- Analysis of Evidence
- Main point 2
- Evidence (quote from a source)
- Analysis of Evidence
- Main point 3
- Evidence (quote from a source)
- Analysis of Evidence
- Restate main points and answer unanswered questions
Read more about how to write a great INTRODUCTION
How Do I Format My Essay?
The format depends on what style is required by your teacher or professor. The most common formats are: MLA, APA, and Chicago style. APA is used by fields of Education, Psychology, and Science. MLA is used for citing Humanities, and Chicago style is used for Business, History, and Fine Arts. Purdue Owl is a format guide that focuses mainly on MLA and APA, and Easybib is a citation multitool for any of your external sources.
Some key points are:
- Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced
- 1” margins
- Top right includes last name and page number on every page
- Titles are centered
- The header should include your name, your professor’s name, course number and the date (dd/mm/yy)
- The last page includes a Works Cited
Some key points are:
- Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced 1” margins
- Include a page header on the top of every page
- Insert page number on the right
- An essay should be divided into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.
How do I write an AP English Synthesis Essay?
AP English Language and Composition is an extremely rigorous course that requires you to write essays that demonstrate deep understanding of the subject matter. In fact, if on the AP exam, your essay has perfect grammar and structure, you might still be awarded just 1 out of 9 points for not “defending, challenging, or qualifying your claim.” Sounds difficult, but it is doable. Before entering any AP class, it is best to read over the course overview and become familiar with the exam.
While writing, focus on the three branches of the AP English and Composition course: argument, synthesis, and rhetorical analysis.
Argument is the easiest component; create your claim and find specific supporting evidence. Convince your reader that you are right.
Synthesis requires you to read into multiple perspectives and identify an agreement and a disagreement between sources. This step is crucial to finding your own claim.
Rhetorical analysis deals with the author and his intentions. What was their purpose for writing this? Who is their intended audience? How does the author appeal to the audience and how does he structure his claim?
There are two acronyms that are helpful with the three AP Lang writing branches.
Tip #1: SOAPS
Example text: Andrew Jackson’s speech to the Congress about sending Native Americans to the West.
Speaker: Identify the speaker of the piece, then analyze for bias and apply any prior knowledge that you have on the speaker.
Example: President Andrew Jackson had a bias against Native Americans. A piece written by Andrew Jackson about Native Americans will probably be written with a bias against him.
Occasion: Determine the time and the place of the written text, then identify the reason the text was written. Even if you aren’t sure of the reason, assume one and make your claim around it.
Example: Andrew Jackson was in office from 1829 to 1837. At this time, the Congress sent Native Americans to the West in order to clear the land for the colonists. Jackson was the one who made the proposal.
Audience: Who was the text directed to?
Example: Andrew Jackson’s speech was directed to a council.
Purpose: What is the text trying to say? Here, you analyze the tone of the text.
Example: Andrew Jackson appeals to pathos by calling Indians “savages”. His purpose is to portray Native Americans in a negative light, so the Congress passes the Indian Removal Act.
Subject: What is the main idea? What is the claim?
Example: Andrew Jackson wants the Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act because he believes Native Americans are uncultured and savage people.
Tip #2: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos
As you’ve probably learned before, Logos appeals to reason, Pathos appeals to emotion, and Ethos appeals to moral philosophy or credibility. However, for the AP Lang exam requires a wider understanding of the three.
If the text uses facts, statistics, quotations, and definitions, the speaker is appealing to Logos. Constituting various backup information is an extremely effective for people who want to persuade.
If the text uses vivid imagery and strong language it denotes Pathos, which is used to connect the audience to a piece emotionally; it is hardest to change the mind of a person who is linked to a subject via a strong emotion.
If the text attempts to demonstrate the speakers reliability or credibility, it is a direct appeal to Ethos. Using the example above, Andrew Jackson could have appealed to Ethos by stating the fact that he is the President of the United States, and thus, knows what is best for the union.
Often, Logos, Ethos, and Pathos lead to the use of logical fallacies.
Tip #3: DIDLS
This is a good shorthand for all textual analysis. While reading a text, try to pinpoint Diction, Imagery, Details, Language, and Sentence Structure in a piece. If anything stands out, add it to your analysis.
- High range essay (8-9 points)
- Effectively develops a position on the assigned topic.
- Demonstrates full understanding of the sources or text.
- Correctly synthesizes sources and develops a position. The writer drives the argument, not the sources.
- The writer’s argument is convincing.
- The writer makes no general assertions and cites specific evidence for each point. His/her evidence is developed and answers the “so what?” question.
- The essay is clear, well-organized, and coherent. It is a stand alone piece rather than an exam response.
- Contains very few grammatical and spelling errors or flaws, if any.
Note: 8-9 essays are an extreme rarity. A strong ‘7’ paper can jump to an 8-9 if the writing style is mature and perceptive.
Middle-Range Essay (57)
- Adequately develops a position on the assigned topic.
- Demonstrates sufficient understanding of the ideas developed in sources
- Sufficiently summarizes the sources and assumes some control of the argument. ‘5’ essays are less focused than ‘6’ and ‘7’.
- The writer's argument is sufficient but less developed.
- Writer successfully synthesizes the sources and cites them.
- Writer answers the “So what?” question but may use generalizations or assertions of universal truth. Writer cites own experience and specific evidence.
- Essay is clear and well organized. ‘5’ essays less so.
- Contains few minor errors of grammar or syntax.
Note: A ‘7’ is awarded to papers of college-level writing.
A ‘5’ on one of the AP English Language and Composition essays designates a 3 on the AP exam. It most likely relies on generalizations has limited control of the claim and argument. ‘5’ essays often lose focus and digress.
Low-Range Essays (1-4)
- Inadequately develops a position on the assigned topic.
- The author misunderstands and simplifies the ideas developed in the sources.
- Over-summarizes the sources, lets the sources drive the argument.
- Writer has weak control of organization and syntax. Essay contains numerous grammatical/spelling errors.
- Writer does not cite the sources correctly, skips a citation, or cites fewer than the required minimum of the sources.
- Notes: ‘4’ or ‘3’ essays do assert an argument but do not sufficiently develop it.
- A ‘2’ essay does not develop an argument.
- A 1-2 essay has severe writing errors and do not assert a claim.
Synthesis Essay Example
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
James Owen, online essay writer from EssayPro
The article reviews the basics of how to write a synthesis essay as well as how to dissect and analyze text when writing an AP English essay. One thing I would like to reemphasize is the importance of your thesis statement. When you write an essay for class or exam, make sure to state your argument clearly. If the reader of your essay doesn’t understand your point of view then what you’ve written is futile.
My advice is: when writing an essay in a short period (such as in an exam room) make sure to articulate your argument in every paragraph and connect every single one of your ideas to the thesis. My tip is to write your thesis down on a piece of paper and reread it at every point to ensure that the information applies and reinforces what you’ve stated in your thesis. This tip also goes for when you are writing a longer piece of writing, as it is very easy to lose focus and stray away from your main point.
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Your class has been writing a few argumentative essays here and there, and you have to admit … you’re getting pretty good at it. But now your instructor says that you need to take it a step further and write a synthesis essay.
The name might be a little intimidating, but don’t worry—I’ll be here to give you example topics and walk you through the steps to writing a great synthesis.
First … What Is a Synthesis Essay?
Before we jump right into generating ideas and writing your synthesis, it would be pretty useful to know what a synthesis essay actually is, right?
When you think about a synthesis essay, you can think of it as being kind of like an argumentative essay.
There is one key difference, though—your instructor provides you with the sources you are going to use to substantiate your argument.
This may sound a little bit easier than an argumentative essay. But it’s a different kind of thinking and writing that takes some time to get used to. Synthesis essays are all about presenting a strong position and identifying the relationships between your sources.
Don’t fall into the trap of simply summarizing the sources. Instead, make your point, and back it up with the evidence found in those sources. (I’ll explain this in more detail when we talk about the writing process.)
Many of your sources will probably have information that could support both sides of an argument. So it’s important to read over them carefully and put them in the perspective of your argument.
If there’s information that goes against your main points, don’t ignore it. Instead, acknowledge it. Then show how your argument is stronger.
If this all seems a little too theoretical, don’t worry—it’ll all get sorted out. I have a concrete example that takes a page from the Slytherins’ book (yes, of Harry Potter fame) and uses cunning resourcefulness when analyzing sources.
Great and Not-So-Great Topics for Your Synthesis Essay
A great topic for a synthesis essay is one that encourages you to choose a position on a debatable topic. Synthesis topics should not be something that’s general knowledge, such as whether vegetables are good for you. Most everyone would agree that vegetables are healthy, and there are many sources to support that.
Bad synthesis topics can come in a variety of forms. Sometimes, the topic won’t be clear enough. In these situations, the topic is too broad to allow for you to form a proper argument. Here are a few example bad synthesis essay topics:
Synthesis on gender
Write about education
Form an argument about obesity
Other not-so-great examples are topics that clearly have only one correct side of the argument. What you need is a topic that has several sources that can support more than one position.
Now that you know what a bad topic looks like, it’s time to talk about what a good topic looks like.
Many great synthesis essay topics are concentrated around social issues. There’s a lot of gray area and general debate on those issues—which is what makes them great topics for your synthesis. Here are a few topics you could write about:
Do video games promote violence?
Is the death penalty an effective way to deter crime?
Should young children be allowed to have cell phones?
Do children benefit more from homeschooling or public school?
The list of good topics goes on and on. When looking at your topic, be sure to present a strong opinion for one side or the other. Straddling the fence makes your synthesis essay look much weaker.
Now that you have an idea of what kinds of topics you can expect to see, let’s get down to how to actually write your synthesis essay. To make this a little more interesting, I’m going to pick the following example topic:
Are Slytherin House members more evil than members of other houses?
Steps to Writing an Impressive Synthesis Essay
As with any good essay, organization is critical. With these five simple steps, writing a surprisingly good synthesis essay is surprisingly easy.
Step 1: Read your sources.
Even before you decide on your position, be sure to thoroughly read your sources. Look for common information among them, and start making connections in your mind as you read.
For the purposes of my Slytherin synthesis example, let’s say I have four different sources.
- Source A is a data table that lists the houses of all members of the Death Eaters.
- Source B is a complete history of the Slytherin House, including the life and views of Salazar Slytherin.
- Source C is a document containing the names of students who were sorted into a different house than what the Sorting Hat had originally assigned to them.
- Source D is a history of the Battle of Hogwarts.
Step 2: Decide what your position is.
After you work through your sources, decide what position you are going to take. You don’t actually have to believe your position—what’s more important is being able to support your argument as effectively as possible.
Also, remember that once you pick a position, stick with it. You want your argument and your synthesis to be as strong as possible. Sticking to your position is the best way to achieve that.
Back to our example … after reading through my documents, I decide that the students and alumni of the Slytherin House are not more evil than students in the other houses.
Step 3: Write an awesome thesis statement.
Once you’ve decided on a position, you need to express it in your thesis statement. This is critical since you will be backing up your thesis statement throughout your synthesis essay.
In my example, my thesis statement would read something like this:
Students and alumni from Slytherin are not more evil than students in the other houses because they fill the whole spectrum of morality, evil wizards are found in all houses, and their house traits of cunning, resourcefulness, and ambition do not equate to an evil nature.
Step 4: Draft a killer outline.
Now that you have your argument down in words, you need to figure out how you want to organize and support that argument. A great way to do this is to create an outline.
When you write your outline, write your thesis statement at the top. Then, list each of your sub-arguments. Under each sub-argument, list your support. Part of my outline would look like this:
Thesis statement: Students and alumni from Slytherin are not more evil than students in the other houses because they fill the whole spectrum of morality, evil wizards are found in all houses, and their house traits of cunning, resourcefulness, and ambition do not equate to an evil nature.
I. Evil wizards are found in all houses.
A. Source A: Examples of Death Eaters from other houses
B. Source D: Examples of what Death Eaters from other houses did at the Battle of Hogwarts
In my outline, I used my sources as the second level of my outline to give the names of the sources and, from each, concrete evidence of how evil non-Slytherin wizards can be.
This is only an example of one paragraph in my outline. You’ll want to do this for each paragraph/sub-argument you plan on writing.
Step 5: Use your sources wisely.
When thinking about how to use your sources as support for your argument, you should avoid a couple mistakes—and do a couple of things instead.
Don’t summarize the sources. For example, this would be summarizing your source: “Source A indicates which houses the Death Eaters belong to. It shows that evil wizards come from all houses.”
Do analyze the sources. Instead, write something like this: “Although many Death Eaters are from Slytherin, there are still a large number of dark wizards, such as Quirinus Quirrell and Peter Pettigrew, from other houses (Source A).”
Don’t structure your paragraphs around your sources. Using one source per paragraph may seem like the most logical way to get things done (especially if you’re only using three or four sources). But that runs the risk of summarizing instead of drawing relationships between the sources.
Do structure your paragraphs around your arguments. Formulate various points of your argument. Use two or more sources per paragraph to support those arguments.
Step 6: Get to writing.
Once you have a comprehensive outline, all you have to do is fill in the information and make it sound pretty. You’ve done all the hard work already. The writing process should just be about clearly expressing your ideas. As you write, always keep your thesis statement in mind, so your synthesis essay has a clear sense of direction.
Now that you know what a synthesis essay is and have a pretty good idea how to write one, it doesn’t seem so intimidating anymore, does it?
If your synthesis essay still isn’t coming together quite as well as you had hoped, you can trust the Kibin editors to make the edits and suggestions that will push it to greatness.
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