How to Write a Synthesis Essay: Examples, Topics, & Outline

A synthesis essay requires you to work with multiple sources. You combine the information gathered from them to present a well-rounded argument on a topic. Are you looking for the ultimate guide on synthesis essay writing? You’ve come to the right place!

In this guide by our custom writing team, you will find:

  • a step-by-step writing guide;
  • a list of 34 synthesis essay topics;
  • a full essay sample in MLA format.

📚 What Is a Synthesis Essay?

A synthesis essay is an assignment that requires a unique interpretation of a particular topic using several reliable sources. To write it, you need to understand, analyze, and synthesize information. That is why this type of essay is used in the AP Lang exam to assess students’ reasoning skills.

The key features of the synthesis essay are:

  • Debatable topic. If your goal is to write a good synthesis essay, it’s necessary to choose an arguable topic. It’s best to choose something that people have different opinions about. This will allow you to use many sources with various viewpoints for your synthesis.
  • Clear thesis statement. It’s a sentence that briefly describes the main idea of your essay.
  • Reliable sources to prove your thesis. For a synthesis essay, your opinion is not enough. You also need to find the evidence. Keep in mind that simply reading an online encyclopedia won’t do; make sure to choose only reliable sources.

What Does It Mean to Synthesize Information?

Synthesis is a process that has huge importance in nature, science, and our everyday life. The word stems from Ancient Greek “synthesis,” which means “putting together.” In general, synthesis is the combination of components to form a connected whole.

The picture shows examples of synthesis usage in various spheres: biochemistry, physics, and sound creation.

In everyday life, we usually resort to it to synthesize information. This means taking the data from different sources and bringing it together. This process is the opposite of analyzing:

  • For an analysis, you break problems into pieces,
  • For a synthesis, you combine separate elements into a whole.

We use synthesis for analysis papers, research papers, argument papers, and business reports.

What Does Synthesis Mean in Writing?

Synthesis in writing means summarizing and connecting different sources considering a particular topic. Although synthesis and analysis are two opposite things, they usually go together in synthesis essays. The process consists of 2 stages:

  1. Conduct the analysis. For that, you break down a problem into parts and analyze the sources. It’s helpful to highlight everything regarding your topic while reading.
  2. Carry out the synthesis. The next step is to formulate an opinion and combine the highlighted information from the sources.

Synthesis is not only used in writing but also in reading comprehension. It’s useful to do this kind of reading while studying your sources. There are three reading comprehension stages:

  1. Your previous knowledge about the topic.
  2. Expansion of your knowledge while you are reading.
  3. Understanding of the problem when you have finished reading.

So, synthesized reading comprehension means combining three stages in one and formulating one statement.

Synthesis vs Summary: What Is the Difference?

A summary is a paraphrasing of the written source in your own words. For a good summary, it’s necessary to include all of the text’s key elements. Meanwhile, synthesis means combining different ideas from different sources. You don’t have to include all the key points; just choose everything related to your topic.

The picture explains the difference between a synthesis and a summary.

Both of these techniques are used for the synthesis essay:

  • The summary goes in the conclusion. You briefly sum up your paper’s main ideas.
  • Synthesis goes in the body paragraphs. Here, you combine multiple sources to prove a point.

📝 Synthesis Essay Types

There are two main types of a synthesis essay: argument and explanatory synthesis.

Both of them require working with multiple reliable sources and analyzing information. The only difference is that an argument synthesis essay requires your own opinion, while an explanatory synthesis essay does not.

Argument Synthesis Essay: Outline and Definition

As you already know, an argument synthesis essay requires you to state your own opinion about the given topic and back it up with several reliable sources. The purpose of such an essay is to persuade the reader that your point is correct.

Here’s what an argument synthesis essay consists of:

Introduction
  • Present the topic to the reader.
  • Provide some background information.
  • Come up with a strong thesis statement considering this topic.
Main body
  • In this part, you defend your position.
  • Make sure that everything sounds coherent and has proof in your sources.
  • Don’t forget to include the opposite point of view.
Conclusion
  • Briefly summarize your essay.
  • Add why you think this topic matters.
  • Say how the topic can be studied further.

Explanatory Synthesis Essay: Definition and How to Write

An explanatory informative synthesis essay requires you to stay neutral towards the problem you are discussing. This means you cannot express your own opinion considering the given question or a problem. Your task is just to inform the reader. That’s why this essay type is also called informative synthesis.

Check out this explanatory essay outline:

Introduction
  • Present the topic.
  • Formulate a thesis statement based on works that you will use for the essay.
  • State your sources.
Main body
  • Explain what the authors said in their texts.
  • Show the similarities and differences in their statements.
  • You can use quotations, but also, don’t forget to paraphrase certain ideas, to give the reader a complete understanding.
Conclusion
  • Briefly summarize your essay.
  • Avoid taking sides and don’t express your opinion.
  • Answer the question of why this topic is important.

✅ How to Write a Synthesis Essay Step by Step

When it comes to the synthesis essay outline, it’s not too different from other assignments. Have a look at this template:

The picture shows a synthesis essay outline: introduction, main body, and conclusion.

How to Synthesize: Working with Sources

After you’ve decided on your topic, it’s time to figure out how to synthesize articles into one text. This is how you do it:

  1. Choose reliable sources: the ones printed in journals or published on academic websites.
  2. Become familiar with them and see if they fit into your essay.
  3. Try to find a few sources for each point. It will increase your essay’s reliability.
  4. Relate each source to your arguments and see similarities between them.
  5. Don’t forget to list every source in the references.

When you are done with a comprehensive analysis of related literature, try to step back and imagine a person who has a different opinion on this topic. Think of some arguments that they can provide to prove their opinion. After you have the list of arguments, find the written evidence of why they are wrong and put them in your essay.

Analyzing and organizing sources is the first and very important step for the synthesis essay. So make sure you do understand what the text means before using it as a reference.

Synthesis Essay Outline: How to Write

For structuring your essay, it’s useful to try mapping. This technique means combining the information from different sources and rearranging it to create a new direction. To do it, you need to analyze the authors’ ideas and come up with your own conclusions.

The best way to do that is called synthesis matrix or graphic organizer. It’s a chart that you can make when you start working on your essay. Here you have a horizontal column that states the main ideas and a few vertical columns that present sources. Your task is to take sources you have chosen and write down the main ideas from them.

Here’s an example of a matrix chart:

Topic: The influence of technologies on teenagers
DaviesBlairSeel
advantages
  • multifunctionality
  • a crucial part of social life
  • learning possibilities
  • multitasking – communicational need
  • helpful for studying
disadvantages
  • short attention span
  • addiction
  • children are more prone to violence
  • laziness
  • no physical activity
  • health problems

While doing that, you will see how many sources contain the same ideas. When you analyze them, you will be able to formulate your thesis backed up with evidence. The synthesis matrix also helps to see new arguments you can cover in your synthesis paper.

How to Write an Introduction for a Synthesis Essay

Now it’s time to start writing the paper. In the introductory part of the essay, you can include:

  • A short yet catchy sentence or a quotation that would present the topic. The start of your essay should make people interested. It’s best to make the first sentence not only informative but also easy to understand.
  • The texts that are used for the essay. Provide the titles and the authors’ names (use the appropriate guidelines depending on the writing style.)
  • The background information which is needed to understand your essay. Definitions of terms or unknown words considering the topic can be included in this part. Otherwise, people may find it hard to understand what they are reading about.

How to Write a Thesis for a Synthesis Essay

A thesis statement is a point of view on a certain problem that you will defend in your essay. It should contain the key points that you want to include in your paper. Here’s how to create a perfect thesis statement:

  • Identify the position you will defend. A synthesis matrix will help you with that:
    • Find several central ideas in the chart.
    • Choose the ones that are repeated the most often and the ones that you feel need to be in your essay.
    • Combine them, and you have a thesis statement with all the key points.
  • Make a draft of the thesis statement. Try to formulate the main idea you want to present in your essay.
  • Elaborate on this idea. Add some details and expand it a bit further.

If the whole picture is coherent, and it conveys exactly what you wanted, then this is your perfect thesis statement. See the example below:

Example:

Gender inequality still exists at the workplace: women are less likely to get the most responsible positions, easily lose careers due to maternity leave, and often receive less pay for the same amount of work.

How to Write Synthesis Paragraphs for the Main Body

Your essay’s main body consists of a few paragraphs. Each of them presents a different argument considering the topic. When you start a paragraph, make sure to begin with a topic sentence, which informs the reader about the paragraph’s main idea. Then, include the synthesized sources and elaborate on them.

Here’s what you should and shouldn’t do when writing the main body:

✔️ Dos❌ Don’ts
  • Show the similarities and differences between the sources. Make sure you make the essay as informative as possible. Try to show various opinions of the authors.
  • Devote each paragraph to one argument. Avoid shuffling unrelated information into it.
  • Include transitional words. Try to make smooth transitions from one paragraph to another.
  • Don’t blatantly summarize the texts. Instead, show your understanding and present the conclusions you’ve drawn from the texts.
  • Don’t state other peoples’ words as your own. If you do that, you are involved in plagiarism.
  • Don’t include information from unreliable sources. This would damage your credibility.

You can use the following words to present the ideas from your sources. They will help you reflect the authors’ tone:

Talking about argumentsTalking about researchAdding emphasis
The author:
  • affirms
  • confirms
  • denies
  • disagrees
  • believes
The author:
  • reveals
  • verifies
  • proves
  • finds
  • mentions
  • advises
The author:
  • admits
  • complainss
  • uggests
  • predicts

How to Conclude a Synthesis Essay

There are quite a few ways to conclude the synthesis paper. Have a look at some of the options:

  • Paraphrase the thesis. As you remember, the thesis is the main idea of your essay. The conclusion is a good place to remind your readers about it. When they are done with the reading, they remember the most important thing from your essay.
  • Synthesize the arguments. There is no need to repeat everything you wrote in your essay. Just briefly summarize the most crucial points.
  • Answer the “So what” question. Tell the readers why this topic matters, why you’ve chosen it, and why it’s valuable for the reader.
  • Provide a closure. It’s an effective strategy when you want to make the reader think. Leave them with a strong statement at the end of your essay.

Synthesis Paper Proofreading Tips

When you have finally written your paper, there is still one important thing left to do. You need to check your paper for any grammatical and contextual mistakes. You certainly can do it yourself, but it would be perfect if you could ask somebody else to read it.

The first thing you need to check grammar-wise is the tense you are using. There is no single tense you need to use for the synthesis essay. It depends on the format:

  • If you’re writing in MLA format, use the present tense;
  • For APA essays, you use the past tense.

The next step is to check whether your synthesis essay has everything that’s required. For that, we have prepared the checklist of questions you can ask yourself to proofread your essays.

  • Is there a clear thesis statement?
  • Did you include all of the key points from the synthesis?
  • Are there clear transitions between paragraphs?
  • Did you organize a paragraph around a single idea?
  • Did you use reliable and up-to-date sources?
  • Did you analyze sources rather than just summarize them?
  • Did you mention every source you’ve used?

If you’ve answered “yes” to all the questions—congratulations, you are done with the essay! Otherwise, you need to come back and fix everything that you’ve answered “no” to.

✍️ Synthesis Essay Topics and Prompts

Sometimes, when you don’t have a topic, it is tough to come up with a suitable idea. That is why we have prepared two lists of topics that you can use for any synthesis essay type.

Explanatory Synthesis Essay Topics

The topics below are suitable for an explanatory synthesis essay:

  1. The beginning of Hollywood cinema. Cinema is a huge industry in the USA. Tell the readers about its history. Describe what it was like in the beginning, which movie was the first one, and who started this industry.
  2. Tactics on dealing with noisy children. Sometimes kids can be very loud, especially in public places. Write about different tactics that can help with this issue.
  3. Tactics on dealing with noisy children climate change on the water cycle. Climate change has affected the water cycle significantly. Your task is to explain how.
  4. The best American cities to live in. Provide the list of the best cities and explain why you’ve included them.
  5. The importance of a healthy diet. Keeping a healthy diet is beneficial in many ways. Write about all the advantages it brings.
  6. Who can become an entrepreneur? Entrepreneurship is not for everybody. In this essay, you can describe the qualities needed for having your own business.
  7. The correlation between overpopulation and poverty. Describe how overpopulation leads to poverty and vice versa.
  8. The advantages of taking an active vacation.
  9. Cultural shock as a part of moving to a different country.
  10. The consequences of the first wave of feminism.
  11. Difficulties you may encounter during the job interview.
  12. How does reading prevent Alzheimer’s disease?
  13. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses.
  14. The connection between religion and politics in ruling the country.
  15. What can non-verbal signals tell you about a person?
  16. The psychology of leadership.
  17. The origins of the most common stereotypes about Americans.

Argument Synthesis Paper Topics

The list of topics for the Argument Synthesis Essay:

  1. Vaping is better than smoking. People are starting to exchange cigarettes for vapes and e-cigarettes. In what ways are they less harmful?
  2. Rich people should pay higher taxes. The same percentage of money doesn’t equal for rich and poor people. Explain why the ones who can afford more should share with others.
  3. Depression is a disease. Prove that psychological problems must be recognized as real health issues that should be cured and not ignored.
  4. Social media affects young people’s lives. Social media has a massive influence on people. In this essay, you can discuss which life spheres are the most affected.
  5. Beauty pageants should be banned. Provide the reasons why they should be banned and tell the reader about psychological problems they can cause.
  6. People should cut meat from their diet to stop global warming. Describe how the meat industry influences climate change.
  7. The voting age should be 25+. Your task is to show the reasons why the votes of people under 25 should not be taken into account during elections.
  8. A healthy lifestyle requires a lot of money.
  9. Each healthy man should serve in the military.
  10. School bullying should be punished by immediate exclusion.
  11. Does friendship exist between men and women?
  12. Drinking coffee is a bad habit.
  13. Working hard is more important than being talented.
  14. Everybody should visit a therapist at least once.
  15. Artificial intelligence will cause huge unemployment rates.
  16. Gaming should not be allowed to children under 18.

📑 Synthesis Essay Example & Synthesis Essay Format Tips

Now let’s talk about formatting. There are two writing styles you can use for a synthesis essay: APA or MLA. You need to choose the one that is required for your assignment.

We will start with the paper in APA format. It is usually used in science and education.

Format
  • double-spaced
  • 1-inch margin
  • page numbers flush right
  • fonts: 11-point Arial or 12-point Times New Roman
Title page
  • the topic of the paper
  • the author’s name
  • institutional affiliation
  • the name and the number of the course
  • the instructor’s name assignment due date
In-text citations
  • for summary – author’s name and publication date in brackets
Example: The artworks from the past are entirely different from the modern ones (Benjamin, 1935)
  • for quotations – add the page’s number.
Example: According to Benjamin (1935), “Mechanical reproduction of a work of art…” (p.7)
References
  • the word “References” in bold
  • sources in alphabetical order
Example: Benjamin, W. (1935). The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Random House

And these are MLA formatting rules:

Format
  • The same requirements as for APA.
Title page
  • Not required; put your name, the instructor’s name, the name of the course, and the date in the upper left corner.
In-text citations
  • for summary and quotations put the last name of the author and the page in brackets.
Example: The artworks from the past are entirely different from the modern ones (Benjamin 7)
References
  • type the words “Works cited”
  • enumerate the sources in alphabetical order.
Example: Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Random House, 1935

Finally, we’ve prepared a synthesis essay sample for you to check out. Feel free to download the PDF file below:

Example:

First introduced in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, affirmative action policies aim to mitigate the discrepancy in opportunities available for underrepresented social groups by taking into account one’s minority background. The policies have become a pressing public issue that obstructs previously marginalized individuals, particularly in the educational environment.

Does Affirmative Action Bring Positive Results?
Download the free sample

Thank you for reading the ultimate guide on synthesis essay writing. We hope you found it helpful. Don’t forget to share it with your friends. Good luck with your assignments!

🔍 References

This article was developed by the editorial team of Custom-Writing.org, a professional writing service with 3-hour delivery.
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