The synthesis essay definition

Download 402.5 Kb.
Size402.5 Kb.



  • “Synthesis” is the combining of separate elements to form a coherent whole.
  • Synthesis does not mean simply having two or more sources. Having more than one source is an excellent first step, but real synthesis isn’t happening unless a relationship between the sources is apparent.


  • A synthesis essay brings together your own ideas with the ideas of other writers, your sources.

Process of synthesis writing:

  • Develop your own original idea, or thesis, based on the sources
  • So…basically I just read the articles and summarize each one separately?
    • No. A literature review is not a summary.
    • A summary is a recap of a source (or sources).
    • A synthesis is an integrated essay based on multiple sources.

Step One: Pre-Write

  • Collect your sources on the topic
  • Familiarize yourself with what others have written about the topic
  • Use a graphic organizer to gather information
  • Formulate your own thesis, after reflecting on your research

Step Two: Pre-Write

  • Using your thesis as a starting point, freewrite, brainstorm, question or map out ideas on the topic
  • Using the pre-writing material you generate, create a scratch outline

Sample Thesis

  • Thesis: The two memoirs, All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg and The Color of Water by James McBride, share the theme that, with family support and love, we can overcome obstacles

Step Four: Revise

  • Be sure that your thesis covers all the supporting points
  • Be sure that you have introduced all of your sources in the introductory paragraph
  • Check that each body paragraph begins with a clear topic sentence to focus the main idea
  • Make sure that all of your evidence supports your thesis clearly; edit out any facts, quotes or ideas that do not (or move them to paragraphs where they logically belong)

Step Four: Revise

  • Add quotations, facts or opinions of your sources where you are lacking adequate evidence
  • Be sure that you have introduced the writer of all quotations by putting the name of the writer in your text, right before the quote:
  • (According to Smith,”XXXXX”)

Step Four: Revise

  • Always ask yourself: are you interpreting quotes and furthering your own ideas, or are you just piling quotes one on top of the other?
  • “Dark chocolate contains antioxidants” (Ghirardelli, 2008, p. 3); “antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage” (Oz, 2009, p. 27). “Dark chocolate can be incorporated into many snacks or meals” (Crocker, 2002, p. 22).

Step Four: Revise

  • Starting or ending a paragraph with a direct quote.
  • “Potato chips are tasty treats but leave your fingers feeling greasy,” (Smith, 2005, p. 267). Potato chips are a favorite snack food among Americans (Wise, 1997, p. 23), but researchers have documented how they tend to leave your fingers, arteries, and intestinal tract with a Vaseline-like substance (Edwards, 2006). “There is a big problem for people who eat potato chips while typing on a laptop” (Edwards, 2006, p. 19).

Step Five: Edit

  • Add, delete or move ideas as needed
  • Proofread for grammar, mechanics, punctuation, word choice or typographical errors

Sample outline for a synthesis essay

  • 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 introduction (first paragraph)     1.    Thesis sentence 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: Each paragraph should:
  •     1.     Start with a topic sentence;     2.     Include information from more than one source;     3.     Indicate the names of your sources;                . 
  • Conclusion. Write a concluding paragraph that restates your thesis in different words and summarizes themes you have found and the ways they connect to the overall topic. 
  • Adapted from Drew On-line Resources for Writers

Works Cited Page

  • Include a Works Cited page at the end
  • of the essay, essentially a list of your sources
  • See below for an example of a good Works Cited page, using MLA style

Group Exercise Step 1

  • Read the two Aesop’s Fables:
  • The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
  • A Wolf found great difficulty in getting at the sheep owing to
  • the vigilance of the shepherd and his dogs. But one day it found
  • the skin of a sheep that had been flayed and thrown aside, so it
  • put it on over its own pelt and strolled down among the sheep.
  • The Lamb that belonged to the sheep, whose skin the Wolf was
  • wearing, began to follow the Wolf in the Sheep's clothing; so,
  • leading the Lamb a little apart, he soon made a meal off her, and
  • for some time he succeeded in deceiving the sheep, and enjoying
  • hearty meals.

Part 1: From

  • The Ant and the Chrysalis
  • An Ant nimbly running about in the sunshine in search of food came
  • across a Chrysalis that was very near its time of change. The
  • Chrysalis moved its tail, and thus attracted the attention of the Ant,
  • who then saw for the first time that it was alive. "Poor, pitiable
  • animal!" cried the Ant disdainfully. "What a sad fate is yours!
  • While I can run hither and thither, at my pleasure, and, if I wish,
  • ascend the tallest tree, you lie imprisoned here in your shell, with
  • power only to move a joint or two of your scaly tail." The Chrysalis
  • heard all this, but did not try to make any reply.
  • A few days after, when the Ant passed that way again, nothing but the shell remained. Wondering what had become of its contents, he felt himself suddenly shaded and fanned by the gorgeous wings of a beautiful Butterfly.
  • "Behold in me," said the Butterfly, "your much-pitied friend! Boast now of your powers to run and climb as long as you can get me to listen." So saying, the Butterfly rose in the air, and, borne along and aloft on the summer breeze, was soon lost to the sight of the Ant forever.

Part 2: In groups-

  • Write very brief summaries of each fable (be as concise as humanly possible without leaving out any important facts)
  • Write one sentence to connect your two summaries (this is your synthesis thesis sentence!)
  • Write a short scratch outline for this synthesis essay (see the sample)

Download 402.5 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page