How to Write a Synthesis Essay in 7 Steps (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Of all the essay styles, synthesis essays are the most commonly used, especially in education. Different essay styles are optimal to discuss different types of information. Learning how to write a synthesis essay can help you to articulate your thoughts clearly while providing relevant sources to support your thesis. In this article, we'll discuss what a synthesis essay is, how to write a synthesis essay, the elements involved, and tips for writing your own.

What is a synthesis essay?

A synthesis essay uses multiple sources and is one of the types of essay that an instructor may ask you to write. Similar to other essays, a professor may assign certain readings to you, or you may find them yourself. To synthesize sources means to explore what each source is saying and how they contribute to your own thesis. As the thesis is the statement explaining the purpose of your essay, you may learn how to take different parts of articles and incorporate them into your own.

There are several types of synthesis essays you might write:

  • Argumentative: Argumentative essays compare opposing ideas and argue for a certain position, highlighting cause and effect. Argumentative essays often synthesize readings from a variety of different sources for writers to prove their theses.

  • Explanatory: Explanatory essays are essays that gather and clarify information to help you research and learn the details in a specific area. Rather than making comparisons, you might summarize and paraphrase different sources to reveal more details on a topic.

  • Business plans: Business plans rarely follow the layout of traditional essays, but they can benefit from the format of synthesis essays. Research coming from internal metrics or results provides supporting evidence and reasons to address certain business problems.

  • Literature review: Book reviews are essays where you read several books and identify common themes or components across them. This can be a speculative type of essay that analyzes distinct patterns and proposes alternative ideas.

  • Research papers: Research papers require you to reference several sources to make an effective synthesis essay to argue your thesis. Synthesis essays allow you to combine several sources in a clear and uniform way, making your essay easy to read and clearly defining your thesis.

Read more: Understanding the Four Writing Styles (And How to Use Them)

How to write a synthesis essay

If you're looking at how to write a synthesis essay, these steps can help you develop your thoughts and support them with relevant evidence:

1. Revisit the assignment

Before writing your essay, it's important you clearly understand the assignment and its aim. When reading the assignment, note the length, topic, and argument. The assignment may provide guidance on what sources to use and the citation style to implement. Having a clear understanding of the assignment can ensure you don't end up rewriting your essay or submitting an essay that doesn't adhere to the guidelines.

2. Conduct research on the topic

Before you can develop your thesis, conduct preliminary research on the topic. This helps you to form an opinion on the subject that could dictate the direction you take in your essay. Creating a thesis based on your opinion can help you to write your essay, as it reflects your values.

3. Draft your thesis

The thesis statement is the conclusion you reach after reading various texts. This is often an answer to the question the instructor posed in the assignment. You then start writing your essay by developing your thesis. Take your time to develop and research your thesis fully, as this can provide the basis for your entire essay.

Read more: How to Write a Topic Sentence (With Examples and Tips)

4. Create an outline

Your outline helps to shape and guide the structure of your essay. Having an outline ensures you don't miss any key points and that your essay remains organized while you write it. To help you remember where to reference each piece of evidence, add notes to each section of your outline. The outline is just a guideline and is subject to change as you find more information, and following a plan can lead to a clearer and more concise essay.

5. Draft the essay

Using your outline, you can draft your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Try to include a surprising detail about your subject in the introduction to your thesis to attract the reader's attention. After you have written the introduction, you can transition into the body paragraphs. Each paragraph in the essay's body has its own theme or subtopic. Within each, you could summarize one of the texts you read as you explain how they connect. It's effective if each paragraph builds on the previous one, providing more information on why your thesis is valid as the essay continues.

The conclusion summarizes everything from your essay in a new way. Try reiterating some of your most important thoughts. By doing this, you can reinforce the reasons that these details support your thesis and show your instructor that you can successfully synthesize information from different texts.

Read more: How to Write a Conclusion (With Examples and Tips)

6. Cite your sources

At the end of your essay, you can include a reference list that details all the sources of information and evidence that you've used in your essay. This includes statistics, facts, and quotes that you didn't create yourself. The order in which you cited the sources could be the guideline for your reference list, or you could simply list them alphabetically.

7. Format your essay

The final stage of writing your essay is formatting. The three common citation styles are the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and Chicago styles. The citation style you choose to implement may depend on the type of essay you have written or what your assignment guidelines specify. When you have finished writing, consider reviewing the assignment again for any details on formatting.

What elements to include in a synthesis essay

Depending on the purpose of your essay, it may require you to include several or all of the following elements:

Thesis statement

Your thesis statement is the argument that guides the rest of your essay. Each point throughout your essay supports your thesis or references it. Your thesis statement is one clear, concise, and straightforward sentence.

Introduction

The opening section introduces your reader to the topic you'll be discussing in your essay. Your introduction starts with an opening line followed by your thesis and a summary of the points you'll discuss. Refrain from including any references or new information in this section, as you can include it in your body paragraphs.

Body paragraphs

The body paragraphs contain the bulk of your essay. This is where you pull all your research into your essay and argue how this supports your thesis. In synthesis essays, this section typically has two or three paragraphs and contains all your arguments before you conclude and make your final points.

Conclusion

Your conclusion gathers all your thoughts together and reiterates how they support your thesis statement. Your conclusion is one paragraph and doesn't introduce new information to the reader. Summarize your findings, evidence, and key points, and briefly relate them to your thesis.

Sources

Your reference list provides the reader with a list of all the external information that you used in your essay. Depending on the style of your essay, you can choose which citation style works best. You could link each source used to where you cited it in your essay using footnotes or endnotes.

Read more: Copy Editing vs. Proofreading: Definitions, Skills, and Duties

Tips for writing a synthesis essay

Here are some tips you can use when learning how to write a synthesis essay:

Read your essay

Always read your essay before you submit it. Reading your essay helps you catch spelling errors, formatting problems, and unclear phrases before you submit it for grading. Ensure you read your essay two or three times before submission to spot any errors.

Use grammar-checking software

There are several online software programs that check the grammar and spelling of your writing. Using these software options helps to find anything you may have missed. These programs can also help to improve the readability of your essay and the use of tense and voice to ensure these are consistent throughout your essay.

Ask a friend to read your essay

Asking a friend to read your essay is another way to spot any mistakes you may have missed. Someone else can also help you by highlighting any parts that are unclear, and this can ensure your thesis is relevant and easy to understand throughout. Consider asking a friend well before the deadline, so you have plenty of time to revisit your essay if necessary.

Print your essay

Printing your essay and reading it on paper is a great way to see any remaining mistakes. You could use a marker to make revisions and edit your writing. Visualizing your essay can help you catch formatting errors and ensure the appearance is consistent throughout.

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