You must have heard the word ‘synthesis’ in one of your chemistry classes.
Synthesis is defined as “the combination of components or elements to form a connected whole” -- and no, writing a synthesis essay has got nothing to do with chemistry experiments.
Going by definition, a synthesis essay consists of combining ideas from different sources and making correlations to write an essay. These sources could be articles, fictional stories, lectures, interviews, or even research studies.
In this article, we will take you through nine solid tips for writing a synthesis essay, along with X topic ideas to get you started.
How to Write a Synthesis Essay: 9 Tips to Succeed
Before we move on to the tips, let’s first understand the different types of synthesis essays:
- Explanatory synthesis essays
- Argumentative synthesis essays
While explanatory synthesis essays are focussed on giving a better understanding of the topic and presenting facts, argumentative essays, on the other hand, are about presenting your point of view or making an argument and justifying it through the course of the essay.
Writing a synthesis essay might seem unlike writing the usual essays you’ve come across, but hey, that’s what we’re here for.
Let’s take a look at nine tips for writing a synthesis essay and getting the grades you desire.
Understand the prompt
Are you being asked to make an argument, compare and contrast or evaluate a text? Spend some time reading the synthesis essay prompt and understanding what’s expected from you. If required, underline keywords or phrases that define the purpose of the assignment.
Here are some important words to look out for in prompts
- Compare and contrast
Have questions? Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor. You rather ask questions and get all your doubts cleared before you start work on the essay.
Select your sources carefully
A synthesis essay is entirely dependent on the sources you choose -- they form the basis of your essay so you have to make this crucial step count.
Selecting sources is like selecting an essay topic. If you choose the wrong one, you’re likely to do an awful job at writing the essay. While some instructors share the sources for the assignment, there are others who give you the freedom to choose your own.
So, if the latter applies to you, you need to choose at least two to three sources for the essay. The idea is to choose a topic, find sources that speak about it, and look for correlations.
For example, if you’re talking about the impact of social media on teenagers, look up existing information or studies on this. There will be differing viewpoints -- some in favor and others against.
Your job is to highlight their relationship and draw your own conclusion.
Here’s a video by Honors College student Miranda Carve on how to deal with multiple sources while writing essays
Do in-depth reading
In order to do justice to the synthesis essay, you’ll need to know your sources inside out. That means you can’t afford to skim articles or read them only once.
Thorough research and reading help you see correlations and develop your own point of view on the topic. The more you read, the more perspective you get, helping you write an effective synthesis essay.
So, read and re-read till you’re convinced you can proceed to the next step. It’s important to make notes, highlight points and summarize central ideas as you go from one source to the other. These notes will serve as the foundation for a strong synthesis paper.
Identifying themes across the sources, you’re studying is important because it lets you find a common connecting factor and base your synthesis essay on it without getting overwhelmed.
For instance, while doing research and writing the essay, you need to know what you’re exploring in order to write a tighter essay. It can be the overarching idea or central concept -- regardless of what it is, it should be present across all the sources, helping you study their relationships and write about them.
Formulate the thesis statement
So you’ve identified the key sources and established the key theme you want to explore. Now, it’s time to formulate a thesis statement.
The thesis statement is meant to reflect your claim and the core idea behind the synthesis essay. It’s as good as a one or two-line summary of your entire paper.
Even though this statement comes at the end of the introductory paragraph, it’s always a good idea to devise a working thesis that will give your paper direction and help you make claims that have a direct relation to the thesis statement.
Create an outline
Just like every academic paper, even a synthesis essay requires planning and outlining before you hop on to writing it.
Creating an outline helps you ensure your points flow in a logical fashion while making sure you haven’t missed out on anything.
Here’s what a synthesis essay outline includes
Introduction - starts with a hook, introduces the sources with the title and author names, offers background information, and ends with the thesis statement;
Body - every paragraph is dedicated to exploring a single theme or aspect, with examples and evidence;
Conclusion - highlight the significant themes and the underlying connections between the sources.
Explore every idea in detail
For a minute, let’s go back to the body paragraph. You’re expected to outline every topic or theme you’re exploring and dedicate one body paragraph to each.
Make sure the paragraphs are arranged in a logical order. Use this section to bring out similarities, differences, and correlations between the sources. This is where your research will come in handy -- go back to your notes and make it a point to use examples and evidence from the reading you’ve done.
Use direct and indirect references from the sources. However, be sure to cite sources accurately, so the instructor knows when you’re quoting an external source and when you’re expressing your analysis. Doing this protects you from unintentional plagiarism, which has serious consequences.
Interpret (don’t summarize)
There is a huge difference between summarizing and interpreting. Writing synthesis essays requires you to interpret and evaluate sources and not summarize them.
Don’t just resort to saying what the sources are saying. It’s equally important to illustrate your point of view, observations, and analysis -- that’s what you will be graded for.
A good way to approach this is to consider yourself as a participant in the conversation. Let’s say source A says something, and source B has opposing views. Imagine you’re the third person in the room -- what do you think?
Are you just summarizing what they’re saying, or are you pushing yourself to interpret their differing point of view and form your own?
Edit and proofread
We find it necessary to always mention this point because students find it very convenient to skip this step without realizing what a grave essay writing mistake that is.
So, don’t be that person who gets too lazy to edit and proofread their synthesis essay. Read it at least two to three times to check for any spelling and grammatical errors, ensure your points flow logically, and check whether you’ve cited your sources accurately.
It’s also a good idea to get a friend or family member to read the essay, so you get a fresh set of eyes on your paper.
We always recommend keeping editing and proofreading for the next day as opposed to doing it right after you’re done writing because, in the case of the latter, you’re likely to be exhausted, which impairs your ability to proofread with precision.
10 Synthesis Essay Topic Ideas for Inspiration
1. The only purpose of life is to be truly alive.
2. Money cannot make you happy.
3. Happiness is not God’s gift but a result of hard work.
4. Never forget who you are and what is essential for you.
5. Overthinking about life distracts you from it.
6. Dreams are not enough; you need to act.
7. Time has more value than money.
8. Unmade choices can rob your happiness.
9. Joy and sorrow are inevitable realities of life.
10. The person that does not want to create intends to destroy.
Conclusion: Master these Tips for Writing a Winning Synthesis Essay
Yes, the thought of writing synthesis essays might be intimidating because they aren’t like the other essays you’ve written in the past.
From doing a deep dive into the sources to writing an essay that highlights connections while drawing your own conclusion -- the process sure sounds exhausting, but with these tips, we’re sure you’ll be in a better place to tackle this assignment.
In spite of this, if you’re stuck and need help with your synthesis essay, write to us at Writers Per Hour. Our expert synthesis essay writers are here to help you write an effective paper that’s custom-written to suit your requirements and, oh, did we mention, 100% plagiarism-free.
Last edit at Jul 27 2023