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How to write a synthesis essay

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When writing a synthesis essay for college or high school assignment, you will need to spend some time researching the pros and cons of each alternative solution. You might consult several experts or look at a book concerning your topic. Perhaps visit a website that includes information about your topic from both sides of the question; these tend to be more reliable than those who have self published their own books or articles on the subject. Include quotations from other sources as well as directly stating what you think.

A good synthesis essay should leave its readers feeling that, although they may disagree with some parts of your argument, gave them good reason to agree with the rest.

A good synthesis essay takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of each side. It should make an educated statement that combines both sides to create a new perspective on the original issue. This is a courageous and necessary tactic, especially when you are writing on some controversial topic where there has been constant debate for many years and no real resolution; for example, abortion or capital punishment; things like this may never really change your point of view.

A student who is writing a synthesis essay should be prepared for criticism from readers of the paper. This is because they will expect you to provide support for your contention, and if he/she reads nothing about it in your paper, or even worse yet sees one side but not another, they will feel that you have not done an adequate job of researching and understanding the issue.

Because most issues are quite complicated, failing to address all sides can leave a reader hanging with unanswered questions. It is important to remember that the reader has no idea what you left out, it could be something very important.

What is a synthesis essay?

A synthesis essay is very similar to an analysis essay in its structure. However, a synthesis essay is utilized for the purpose of outlining and explaining the major points of two different arguments or concepts, rather than just one. The elements that are included in a synthesis essay will be different from those found in an analysis paper.

A synthesis paper is written so as to come up with a new concept, idea or theory on a topic which involves combining different strands of thoughts/ideas. This can also include comparing and contrasting two differing arguments which have been given by two authors on the same topic, so as to conclude on an agreed final stand point or thought. The words “combining” or “synthesis” are used interchangeably when referring to this type of writing.

There are generally four stages of writing a synthesis paper; these are:

  1. Survey/selecting the literature that you need for synthesis essay (Primary sources)
  2. Interpreting the data in those sources
  3. Coming up with your own conclusion on an issue
  4. Combining different learners’ conclusions on an issue so as to form one final concept, idea or theory (synthesizing).

A synthesis essay is meant to be just like your opinion and thoughts put out there onto a page. It needs to be original, clear and without slang language, so that it can give other people who may read it something new to think about.

It is also important to note that because this paper will likely include your personal opinion and thoughts on an issue, so even though there may be some facts/statistics involved in it (from the previous sources), you would want to keep those separate from the objective data. Instead of saying things like “Various researchers found…” or “Smith argues…”, instead try using words like “This shows…or This implies….” 

A synthesis essay can either be written with two opposing sides on one topic being compared and contrasted/ combined , OR two different issues or topics being compared and contrasted / combined . The first one is easier because it involves taking two sides of a concept which have already been written about and combining them into one solid opinion. For this sort of paper you will want to pick two good sources that are at least 200-300 words long each so that they can provide enough material for you to synthesize together.

The other type would be more difficult because it requires you sifting through lots of information/sources , which may also disagree with each other in order to come up with your own final thought/concept after reading the material. As an example let’s say you needed to write a synthesis essay about what love is. You could pick any two sources from the library or online that discussed this topic and analyze each of them, coming up with your own idea on the subject after you have read it all.

One last point worth mentioning is that both types do require certain characteristics of writing in order for them to be successful. Both papers will need enough evidence/facts from existing literature , but most importantly they will require a conclusion that clearly shows how the authors came up with their overall final thought/theory . It should also tie in earlier parts of the paper as well as include statistics, quotations and other details mentioned throughout the text. References are not necessary either, but something like Harvard referencing would do fine.

Structure of a synthesis essay – Outline, Format

The actual writing of a synthesis essay needs to be organized using the TASK structure, which incorporates an introduction section , 2-3 body paragraphs and a conclusion/summary.

One example way of how to structure a synthesis essay can be seen below:


A good synthesis essay introduction should include:

  1. the thesis statement,
  2. 3-5 key facts suggested by your literature sources
  3. Any definitions that need to be made clear.
  • It should also have its own topic sentence.

To start your essay, a good introduction paragraph for an essay should contain an overview of the most significant points and a brief statement regarding your position regarding each side. This will make it easier for readers to understand and follow the rest of the argument in the essay.

Body paragraphs:

  • 1st body paragraph
  • 2nd body paragraph
  • 3rd body paragraph

A good synthesis essay body paragraphs should not include quotes from other authors, instead it will be a new concept that you have thought up from the material that you have already read.


A good way to end a synthesis essay is to write a conclusion that summarizes all the main body paragraphs as well as provide some final thoughts on the issue at hand. A good way to start this section would be by recapitulating what was discussed in the previous 3-4 paragraphs (body) before trying to give it some meaning or making any grand statements about where things currently stand with regard to this topic.

Read more here on how to end an essay.

How to start a synthesis essay

To start a synthesis essay the following tips might be helpful. Also refer to the guidelines on how to start off an essay.

In the opening of a synthesis essay the writer should present the issue under scrutiny and explain its importance to society or culture. In order to do so, use specific examples from history, art and literature, etc., which further support your main point. Now you will have an opportunity to present your own opinion on the matter and overturn other people’s view on this matter by using evidence presented in previous paragraphs. The last sentences of your essay should sum up all your arguments.

In conclusion we can say that a good introduction includes three important parts:

  1. generalizing statement about the issue at hand;
  2. thesis statement, which is followed by introducing a counterargument;
  3. finally, one should create summarizing statements that summarize all of the previously mentioned ideas.

As for the body of a synthesis essay, it should include three or four paragraphs which present opposing opinions and counterarguments. Each paragraph should be followed by an introduction that will tell the reader what is going to be discussed in that particular paragraph.

The last section of a good synthesis essay contains your own argument in favor of one side of this issue using evidence from previous paragraphs. In order to do so you can also use images, pictures or videos from other sources (like YouTube) and connect them with arguments made in previous paragraphs. The last sentences of this part summarize all ideas presented earlier on in this article. One needs to remember not to write long introductions but instead create short statements about what has already been stated.

In the end, it is important to remember that introduction and conclusion are two most important parts of an essay. If you start an essay well your reader will stay on with you until the very last sentence. The same goes for ending, if there are no good conclusions at the end of a paper, your reader or professor might not take anything from this synthesis essay.

Synthesis essay example on pros and cons of gun control

Synthesis Essays can convey more than one idea in reference to opposing arguments. For instance.. A person could write a paper addressing the pros and cons of gun control from two different points of view: a) safety b) personal freedom as it pertains to self-defense and/or hunting. While writing the essay, it would be important to include a mixture of both sides of the argument.

The first paragraph could address the safety issue by introducing information about deaths and injuries due to gun violence. A good introduction should also discuss several ideas that are associated with the topic at hand.

The second paragraph may then focus on self-defense as well as hunting; if done correctly, these two paragraphs will lay a foundation for future points you want to make in your paper. They will also help establish an agenda or thesis statement for supporting your claim when you introduce it later on in your paper.

This type of essay works best when each idea is followed up with facts/statements that support those claims. By doing this correctly, you can build off of your points instead of simply saying one thing then moving on to a new subject. Good synthesis essays also require that you use credible information and avoid editorial comments.

Tips when writing controversial synthesis essays

• Lead with your strongest argument.

• Make sure you support the conclusion with statements from at least two other sources.

• Do not change the original word order in each of the quoted sources; otherwise, it defeats the purpose of using them as evidence to support your own statement in that they will be incomprehensible to readers who are unfamiliar with these texts.

Create a cluster map of the main ideas: The first thing I did when writing my synthesis essay was to create a cluster map of the main ideas included throughout the papers. Once this was complete, it became much easier for me to pick and choose what I wanted to include in my own paper.

Take notes during research: Another way you can make sure your paper is well-organized is by taking notes as you read each source individually. Writing down key phrases, such as important statistics or quotes that could be used later on in your own exegesis essay will help you keep track of all the important information found in them. For instance, if an author makes a statement that could be interpreted more than one way but seems to lean toward your own argumentation, note it down or make some sort of comment on it to yourself so you can remember to use that in your own writing.

Synthesis Essay Example: controversial topics on cloning or stem cell research

When writing synthesis essays on controversial topics such as cloning or stem cell research, make sure to always include credible sources from both sides before advancing any claims yourself; otherwise, you run the risk of becoming biased toward one side and have no way of knowing whether or not your statements are accurate.

You also want to aim for a neutral tone when writing synthesis essays. That is, try not to make any statements that are too subjective or makes sense only to you; you do not want your paper to come off as biased because it will undermine what credibility you have earned with your readers/instructors.

The last section in this example contains a great general philosophy statement: the author believes that more research and inclusion of sides is all that is needed in order for us to proceed further down the road of cloning and stem cell research.

In conclusion, synthesis essays can be interesting to read and challenging to write; however, they are not as easy as choosing a side from two alternatives. It comes with practice being able to find a middle ground where neither side loses too much standing but both sides gain in some way or another.

Tips when writing college synthesis paper

Here are a few common mistakes to avoid when writing synthesis papers :

  • Avoid plagiarism: Don’t use an academic paper as the basis of your own paper. You may only use sections or pieces of it that you actually feel are important/relevant to whatever topic/issue you are writing on, but don’t just copy and paste an entire paper. If you do this then it will be considered plagiarism , which is taken very seriously in academic circles.
  • Debate both sides of the topic: Don’t try to focus too much on each side of a debate, instead make sure that they both still have their own separate opinions . Also, even if one seems correct at first glance, don’t just stick with them because other sources might have different opinions worth mentioning.
  • Avoid using irrelevant information: Avoid using quotes from other people unless the information is direct or relevant to what you are writing about.
  • Analyze issues instead of summarizing: Don’t just summarize everything that you read in your sources, analyze them as well.
  • Use multiple academic sources: Use both points of view from other authors, also known as sources, to form your own debatable thoughts/concepts instead of sticking with just one person’s ideas.
  • Use transition words when writing your synthesis essays: Make sure to use transitional words and phrases to make your paper more cohesive as a whole.
  • Maintain the structure of a synthesis essay: Don’t forget the must have elements in any synthesis essay such as an introduction, 3-5 body paragraphs and a conclusion.

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