How to Write a Synthesis Essay?

November 19, 2018
How to Write a Synthesis Essay

One of the most challenging essays you may ever have to write is the synthesis paper. Often confused with the argumentative essay, this type of academic writing assignment requires the student to compare and contrast various sources and give a balanced analysis. If you find the synthesis essay particularly challenging, then you are in the right place. Read on for useful tips on how to complete a stellar paper.

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What Is a Synthesis Essay?

A synthesis is essentially a written discussion that analyzes one or more sources. Instructors use this type of assignment to assess students’ ability to infer connections between sources. Before you can derive relationships between the sources, you should first be able to summarize them, at least in part. At the same time, your instructor will expect you to go beyond the summary to make balanced judgments, of course, based on your critical readings of the material. A good synthesis also draws some conclusions about the validity and quality of the sources. Since this paper is based on two or more sources, the selection of information from the sources ought to be selective. Pick what to include in line with your purpose.

Here’s How to Start a Synthesis Essay

One of the most challenging tasks in writing a synthesis paper is getting started. Most students waste valuable time thinking about the best way to begin their project. The easiest way to get going is to start with a detailed plan.

The first step in the prewriting phase is to carefully read and understand the prompt. Many students fail their assignments by answering questions that have not been asked in the instructions. The prompt is your guide to what the instructor expects. What is the assignment question? How many pages are expected? Are there specific sources indicated? Is the topic determined or do you have the freedom to choose? If the prompt seems long, break into several parts for easy understanding.

Next, read your sources. If there are sources assigned, find and read them. If not, carry out a keyword search for authoritative sources on the subject. As you read, take note of information that is common among the material, making connections in your mind as you read. Take detailed notes and decide what your position is. Please note that you don’t actually have to believe in your opinion, although you must be able to support it with evidence.

Useful Tips on How to Write a Good Synthesis Essay

A good synthesis paper should be approached in the same way that one would approach a critical review of the literature. The way you start will determine whether your reader actually goes through the rest of the work. At the beginning of your text, indicate the objective of your paper, presenting a thoughtful and well-articulated argument, leading towards a nuanced conclusion.

A good synthesis paper should include an arguable thesis statement. This is the main idea that you intend to present in the text. A good idea would be to insert your thesis towards the end of the introductory paragraph.

Use your plan to organize the paper. When drafting, do not be concerned with details relating to grammar and syntax. There will be time to edit your work once the initial draft is complete. As you write, you will likely come across new ideas to support your thesis. Feel free to adjust your plan as appropriate. However, make sure that everything flows logically to support the central claim.

Most importantly, always document your sources. Most likely, there will be a citation style indicated in the prompt. If not, confirm with your instructor the right format for the paper. Once the final draft is complete, revise your synthesis, making sure that you have used transitional; phrases and words as appropriate. Confirm whether your work reads smoothly and logically from the beginning to the end. Read carefully to detect typos and grammar mistakes.

Synthesis Essay Outline

You may have read somewhere that freewriting is the right trick to use to beat the writer’s block. While we cannot deny that this trick is useful for getting started, you will need a plan if you are to stay on track and avoid missing important details. This is where the outline comes in. An outline is essentially a roadmap of how you intend to approach the synthesis. It includes main ideas as well as sub-ideas. Make the outline as detailed as possible, since this will enhance the research process.

Synthesis Essay Structure

Regardless of the type or complexity of an essay, there is always a structure to follow. While the format may vary from one department to another, essay structures generally remain unchanged. The ideal way to organize your paper is to use an introduction, body, and conclusion. Each section has a special role to play as discussed below.

How to Write a Synthesis Essay Introduction?

The introduction is the first part of your work readers encounter. Make it as interesting and concise as possible. Potential strategies to get it right include starting out with a catchy hook, followed by some background information and an arguable thesis. The hook is what draws your audience in, prompting them to take a better look at your text. It can be referred to as the attention grabber. Don’t include too much information in the introductory section. Leave the actual discussion for the body paragraphs.

Synthesis Essay Body

The key to writing a synthesis essay effectively lies in understanding your sources. The structure of your body paragraphs will be influenced by the purpose of your text, as well as the thesis statement. Organize your writing according to the main ideas, each with its own paragraph. Make sure to use transition phrases or words to connect the different parts of your work. The outline should guide you in this part of the paper.

Synthesis Essay Conclusion

The conclusion is your chance to end things on the right note. Use it to reiterate the importance of the topic and consider what the future holds. This is the place to restate your thesis and synthesize your main points. Do not introduce any new material here.

Consider These Additional Synthesis Essay Tips

To complete an outstanding paper, avoid merely summarizing the sources. Instead, make sure to make your point, supporting it with evidence from the material. Analyze the material.

Please note that some of your sources may have information that could support both sides of the argument. Don’t ignore counterarguments, they will strengthen your writing. Do not structure your text around the material. If you do this, you run the risk of summarizing rather than analyzing. Instead, use ideas to plan your work.

These tips are meant to enhance your ability to write a good synthesis paper. However, we understand that, even with the guidelines, there are various factors beyond your control that may limit your ability to cope with your assignment. Some of these challenges include:

  • Lack of enough time
  • Language barriers
  • Lack of enough skills

If, after reading this article, you still find synthesis writing challenging, do not worry. You can get quality writing assistance from our experienced service.

Synthesis Essay Example

Symbolic Interaction Theory

The symbolic interaction theory is an approach used to understand social cognition based on group and individual behaviors. The theory deals with relationships that develop to form social organizations. Notably, individual behaviors are based on beliefs. The theory incorporates communication due to the social contact between individuals and groups. Relationships are based on constant relay of data in the society. Based on an ontological perspective, the theory presents the society and its survival strategies where social interactions are inevitable. The theory is the foundation of social cognition and existence. It can be applied in various social institutions where success is based on interaction capabilities. For example, it is adopted in schools and workplaces where the group attitude helps in simplifying activities.

‘Direct perception’ is the main component of the theory where individuals have to become aware of personal traits before interacting. Personal beliefs have a direct effect on the character traits. The perception depends on the comprehension of language and communication channels. According to Oliver’s article, he has presented this component in exposing emotional experiences between individual. The connection between individuals may contribute to a change in interaction approaches (Oliver 2012). Ella and Johanna have provided an example whereby language and awareness affect the online interactions between consumers and producers (Ella and Johanna 2013). In professional life, the component can be applied in situations where language barriers affect the rate of socialization in a region.

‘Information processing and subjective meanings’ is also a component in the theory dealing with symbolic interactions. Individuals can alter comprehension of various words depending on the rate of socialization. For example, Oliver’s article highlights the understanding of the word ‘mother’ in several perspectives (Oliver 2012). An interactive society will denote the word as a social symbol representing care, warmth and determination. However, the word can be understood in kinship terms where it is more specified. Ella and Johanna (2013) in their article compare words such as assault and hug to denote various perspectives that can come up due to information processing. Real life situations include the effect of comprehension in social interactions. Cases of low information processing and few beliefs will lead to reduced socialization activities. Social bonds rely on the behavior interpretation processes. Individuals deduct social bonds from similar interpretation of behaviors. For example, a social group is most likely to have the same understanding due to peer pressure and perceived behaviors.

The theory has highlighted ways in which human behavior and belief affect the socialization process. Interaction between individuals may depend on collective understanding of the circumstance. The definitions of various situations depend on the group related to the activities. Subjective meanings arise when individuals interact to perform various social activities. Information processing depends on issues such as cultures and other social perceptions. Human reactions depend on the interpretations of the social actions. Professional communication depends on the social cultures and the adoption of new languages that act as survival strategies. For example, social organizations such as gangs may come up with new phrases depending on their beliefs. They are also used as identities during external interactions.


Ella, J. & Johanna, M. (2013). Consumer engagement in online environments- a symbolic interactions approach. In: 7th workshop on Interpretative Consumer Research, 11-12 April 2013.

Oliver, C. (2012). The relationship between symbolic interactionism and interpretive description. Qual Health Research 22(3). 409-415

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