If you were given a task to write a synthesis essay for the first time, you might feel a bit lost. However, there’s no need to panic as creating this type of essay isn’t that much harder than an argumentative one. Additionally, working on a synthesis essay will help you hone your analytical skills that will prove to be useful later on in life.

What Is a Synthesis Essay?

A synthesis essay is a writing assignment that contains an analysis of two or more sources dedicated to the same topic. The quality of such a piece depends on your ability to see parallels and draw comparisons between various articles, books, interviews, etc.

The purpose of a synthesis essay is to teach students how to deeply examine academic texts from different points of view. This is achieved due to the fact that when you study two papers dedicated to the same topic, you see the arguments of both authors in a new light, regardless of whether they agree on the main point or not. On the other hand, when you examine a single source, you focus only on the vision of a particular author, neglecting any alternative interpretations.

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The secret of creating a good synthesis essay has two parts. Firstly, you have to write short summaries of the sources you’ve used to support your thesis statement. It’s vital to turn your attention only to those paragraphs that are directly linked to your topic. Secondly, you have to express your opinions about the subject matter, as the primary value of this type of essay lies in your critical analysis of the sources. As you write the main body of your paper, you have to make clear which arguments you support and which seem unconvincing to you and why.

Additionally, you shouldn’t analyze the sources in isolation but also have to study the relationship between them. It’s important to focus both on the common features of the writing pieces, and on the contradicting points that authors make.

Format-wise, you have to structure a synthesis just like any other type of essay, but with one important difference. After you’ve written your thesis statement and introduced the first supporting argument, you have to consecutively provide the opinions of both sources on the matter at hand. Then, you have to repeat this formula for all your points to keep underlining the relationship between two texts.

Synthesis Essay Topic Ideas

When coming up with a topic for your synthesis essay, it’s vital to make it broad enough so that you can include several related sources, but not so broad that you won’t be able to focus on a single point. The key here is to find the golden balance. For instance, a topic like “Social Media” is too abstract to become a good synthesis essay.

Good essay topics should motivate you to look at a problem from different angles. They are also characterized by the fact that even though two sources may contradict each other, they both make valid points that can’t be easily disregarded. For example, “The Effects of Social Media Websites on Introverts” allows for a multilayered analysis of the subject and is perfect for a synthesis essay. On the other end of the spectrum, “The Dangers of Texting While Driving” can’t be a good topic, as it’s hard to find sources with different views on this problem.

If you were given freedom to pick your own subject, you should always go by your interests or by what is relevant to your field of study. To assist you in coming up with ideas of your own, here’s a list of topic prompts that might help you get your creative juices flowing:

  • How effective is grading as an evaluation technique in the modern educational system?
  • How should professors integrate the Internet into their studies?
  • Is a death penalty an efficient way of preventing capital offenses?
  • How big of an issue is Internet piracy?
  • Should gender equality spread to all aspects of life?
  • How dangerous is video game addiction?
  • At what age should children be introduced to social media websites?
  • Is home education a viable option for today’s day and age?
  • Should cigarettes be banned forever?
  • Should the transition to electric cars be mandatory or voluntary?

As you can see, social issues are a great source for potential synthesis essay topics. They rarely have a single right answer and thus can provide a lot of material for you to reflect upon and analyze.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t write such an essay on other subjects. For example, there are a lot of history topics that raise controversies. Historical figures like Julius Caesar, Niccolo Machiavelli, or even a question like “Would it be better if Europeans never discovered America?” can serve as a topic for a great essay.

Writing Tips for a Synthesis Essay

If you want to write an excellent essay, there are a lot of things you have to keep in mind. And to make this task easier for you, here’s a list of some useful tips that will help you increase the quality of your writing:

  • Use reliable sources.
    In case you weren’t given the materials by your teacher or professor, this task gains immense importance. It’s recommended to pick two to four sources, with each of them offering a different outlook on your topic. Make sure that they are reliable as well. It won’t do you any good if one source is an article written by a Nobel Prize laureate and the other was posted online by an undergraduate student.
  • Create an outline of your work.
    It’s almost impossible to write a good synthesis essay without creating a plan beforehand. Thus, you need to know the answers to the “What? Where? Why?” questions before you can begin. This means that you have to know what you’re going to say, where you’re going to say it, and be able to back up everything you write with facts.
  • Build the essay around your arguments.
    A mistake a lot of students make is that they dedicate paragraphs to separate sources, and not to arguments they use to support their thesis statement. Such an approach shows a lack of analysis on their part and is judged as an inability to examine the relationship between various points of view. That’s why it’s recommended you dedicate each paragraph to a particular point, and support that point by referring to different sources.
  • Add transitions between paragraphs for a more organic reading experience.
    Transitions make your essay look coherent and allow you to demonstrate the connection between separate arguments. You might struggle with this point, but the link is always there, as all the arguments serve to support the same thesis statement.
  • Revise and proofread your work.
    If you dedicate a sufficient amount of time to editing, you’ll be able to locate the weak points of your essay and improve them. It’s also a great chance to see which paragraphs may be too hard for the reader to follow so that you can rephrase your thoughts in a more precise manner.

To be sure that all of your arguments are understood correctly, consider asking someone to read your essay. This way you’ll have an outsider’s opinion and will get rid of the mistakes that could have slipped out of your attention otherwise.

Synthesis Essay Examples

To provide an example of how to write a synthesis essay, let’s return to the “The Effects of Social Media Websites on Introverts” topic. The thesis statement for this topic can sound something like “The inclusive nature of SM websites has had a positive influence on the socializing capabilities of introverts.”

Next, you’d have to find and analyze sources that support or oppose this statement from different points of view. As a result, you’d receive a set of arguments that would help you write the main body of your essay. For instance, your first point might be that due to the global user base of SM websites, it’s easier than ever to find other introverts that share the same interests. Thus they help people fight loneliness, engage in conversations, etc.

As a counter-argument, you could bring up the fact that a lot of psychologists think that Social Media has the opposite effect on introverts, as they crawl deeper into their shells, feeling comfortable in an isolated environment. Thus, it leads to them being even further excluded from real life events and conversations.

The conclusion of such an essay would summarize the arguments presented above and contain the reiteration of the thesis statement.

Another example of a synthesis essay can be titled “The Dangers of Disney’s Monopolization of the Entertainment Industry.” In the thesis statement of such a piece, you could express your opinion about how the monopolization of various companies limits the consumer’s choice in entertainment and what results may occur if this trend continues. In the main body of the essay, you would provide the arguments that support that statement and back them up with facts. It would also be preferable to address a source that denies the possibility of any drawbacks that may result from Disney’s monopolization. In the conclusion, you’d summarize the value of all the arguments and explain how they relate to your thesis statement.

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