Synthesis Essay

To “synthesize” means to combine various elements into a coherent system. A versatile term, “synthesis” is also used in academic writing to denote a piece of writing in which the author combines different ideas to support his/her central argument (or thesis statement) – we are talking here about a synthesis essay. In most cases, the task to prepare a synthesis essay comes with the assigned text that you have to read and analyze.

The Process of Writing

Prior to writing, a student has to read and analyze the text assigned by the tutor. Be prepared to read it more than once to make the analysis strong. Generally, the analysis has to answer a simple question ‒ “So what?” A few more things to focus on:

  • What seems to be the author’s main argument?
  • What claims and sub-claims does the author make?
  • Is there enough evidence to support the claims?
  • Who do you think is the author’s intended audience?
  • How does the author establish credibility?

Having answered these questions, you can think about your claim and build your essay around it.

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Some Examples of Common Topics

A good synthesis essay has to be argumentative. If no text was assigned and you have to choose it by yourself, try to find the one which has opposing views. This way you will be able to consider the arguments of both sides. For example, you can build a debate around the following issues:

  • Alternative sources of power
  • Abortion
  • Financial support of the immigrants
  • Gun control policy
  • Social media
  • Genetically modified food
  • Death penalty
  • Euthanasia, etc.

A Thesis Statement ‒ Where to Start?

A thesis statement is much more than simply a sentence which appears at the end of an introduction because it contains the central claim of your essay. In other words, a thesis statement is a succinct summary of the very reason you are writing the essay. So, after picking the topic and analyzing the text, you should be able to establish your position ‒ that is to make your argument. Be sure to analyze the sources carefully so that you are able to make an informed decision about which side of the argument to support. A good understanding of the existing debate will help you make a strong argument and build an interesting discussion around it.

For example: The fear towards native Americans that Andrew Jackson demonstrates calling them savages is a reflection of stereotypes of the colonialists in the Congress.

Do I Have to Write an Outline?

Many students underestimate the value of an outline and choose not to write it. However, an outline helps make the structure of the paper coherent. Group the existing evidence and sub-arguments into separate sections and check if all parts of the thesis statement have enough support. Similarly, make sure that every paragraph you are planning to write will somehow support the thesis statement. Refrain from including redundancies and repetitions. Do not simply summarize the sources, analyze them instead.


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