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How to Write a Synthesis Essay

How to Write a Synthesis Essay

The perfect synthesis essay takes the ideas from two different texts and combines them into a single position that the paper is trying to argue. The purpose of this type of paper is for university students to demonstrate that they can take apart big concepts and show the skeleton of the argument.

With this guide from EssayPro — professional essay writing service, we will show you how to write a synthesis essay. We will also show you how to identify a thesis (the paper’s central argument). This skill will help you combine it with other theses, helping you write in synthesis format.

Table of Contents

What Is a Synthesis Essay

Writing a synthesis essay is just like writing any other form of a thesis. According to the synthesis essay definition, it is a written discussion of ideas. They tend to draw on two or more sources from academic papers, fiction sources, speeches, interviews, articles, lectures, and observations.

In other words, if you have two ideas from a similar topic, you can isolate the core of what they’re trying to say. For instance, you might have a paper on why dolphins hate being in aquatic theme parks, and one on the depression of monkeys in zoos. Your combined thesis can be: animals suffer when in captivity.

Two Types of Synthesis

  1. Explanatory Synthesis Essay

This type helps readers get a better understanding of a topic. Instead of arguing a point, the goal here is to explain a particular topic.

In the body, explain the topic using sources, and present these sources objectively. Like in any regular essay, back up each supporting claim with two or more credible sources.

  1. Argument Synthesis Essay

The goal of this type of paper is to argue a specific topic and justify it with evidence. Unlike the explanatory type, here you will do the same thing you would do when writing a regular argumentative essay. State your position, make supporting claims, and then provide credible evidence to back up each claim.

How to Choose a Topic

A synthesis essay prompt must be debatable. Depending on your assignment, you may have to choose a primary text. Choose a book that might have opposing viewpoints.

Step 1: Browse through topics and ideas. Read about some of some sources regarding selected topics, in-depth, to see if any of taking your interest.

Step 2: Choose a topic, and then gather relevant and useful sources to include in the synthesis essay.

Step 3: Apply ideas from the sources onto a synthesis essay outline. Doing so should make writing far easier and save you time.


Tips on choosing a synthesis essay topic

It is important for good topics should be debatable because they have been in public conversation for decades. This makes them emotionally-charged for all sides involved, and this means much evidence for them is available.

Examples include:

  • Income inequality
  • Progressive taxation policy
  • Immigration policy
  • Drug legalization
  • Gun control

Bad topics would be ones in which the debate has long been over, and the scientific community has provided an objective answer to them. Other bad topics include those that have a yes or no answer. For instance:

  • The Flat-Earth theory
  • The safety and effectiveness of vaccines
  • Racial supremacy
  • Does gravity exist?
  • Should we trust doctors?

Synthesis Essay Outline

Creating an outline will be useful in structuring your paper and planning your writing. Paste supporting evidence, sub-arguments, and specific points in the appropriate sections. Make sure that every aspect proves the claim in your thesis. Extra information will only make your paper worse.

If the information goes against your central claim, then you should acknowledge this as it will make your paper stronger. Make sure you read all of your sources. When writing about the causes, do not summarize them – analyze them.


A synthesis essay introduction should be a brief description of what the paper will be about. It will consist of a hook, the background and relevance of your topic, and the thesis statement (explained below).


Human beings like you and me are mammals. We evolved to love the freedom of choice, and when this is limited, the poverty of choice makes us ill, physically and mentally. Captive animals go crazy, have changes in bacterial flora in the gut, and end up trying to injure themselves.


Synthesis essay writing always includes a thesis. This is the central argument of the entire paper. Your thesis should be the core argument of separately sourced theses.


Mammals suffer when in captivity, and it is barbaric to keep them in zoos of any kind.


The first paragraph must present the counterargument to the thesis. This demonstrates your ability to think from the opposing point of view, which is greatly valued in higher education facilities. Be sure to note that the counterargument isn’t strong enough to discredit the thesis.


The counterargument to this is the comfort of predictability. Mammals like you and me enjoy knowing that food and shelter are always available. In a 2006 study titled “Effects of predictability on the welfare of captive animals,” it is said that captive animals enjoy being fed at a predictable time. However, the rest of the study identifies mammals as those who have evolved to enjoy the unpredictability found in their natural habitat.

Your next paragraphs should now present arguments in favor of the thesis. Remember to structure all paragraphs in the body using the following format:

  • Supporting Argument
    • Topic Sentence
    • Evidence
    • Analysis of Evidence
An example of a paragraph in favor of the thesis:

Mammals exhibit abnormal behavior in long-term captivity. According to a 2006 study titled “Effects of predictability on the welfare of captive animals,” the following was observed: “Increases in abnormal behaviours (often species-specific, but such as eye-poking in macaques), self-directed behaviours [...] (such as scratching), coprophagy, or agonistic behaviour (especially if injurious) can also be viewed negatively as they may be indicative of tension and frustration.”

This is evidence enough of their extreme discomfort and is an argument against torturing another species on our behalf.


A synthesis essay conclusion should be a summary of the overall paper. Conclude the paper with a final sentence. In other words, restate the main points and address any unanswered questions.

An example of a paragraph in favor of the thesis:

Given all of the evidence we’ve looked through, we can conclude that to keep a mammal captive is to destroy it mentally and physically. Evidence shows that existence is something fortunate, and for us to be wasteful with the existence of others is to rob that entity of opportunity. It is therefore imperative to call for the abolition of zoos of all types, unless it is an animal sanctuary designated for the survival of a species.

If you need help with all of the above, feel free to use EssayPro Help

Writing Process

A key factor in writing this paper is doing an analysis of a given text or a prompt. To successfully analyze it, you must comprehend the text’s purpose, rhetoric, and the argument that the author’s claim. In other words, you are answering the question: “So what?”. Then, you must build your application, and write your work around that.

  1. Avoid tilting the assignment as ‘synthesis essay’ followed or preceded by the relevant title.
  2. Remember to address your readers appropriately.
  3. Use precise vocabulary. Don’t be shy to use a dictionary.
  4. Use a clear sentence structure. Avoid passive voice.
  5. Proofread and correct errors: spelling, comma errors, shifts, subject-verb agreement, plurals, possessives. Avoid using “you.”
  6. Make sure your citations are correct.
  7. Make use of sentence and paragraph transitions.

Writing Techniques

Make use of Summary: One of the simplest methods ways of organization. It allows you to summarize the sources that possess the highest amount of relevance. The issue is that this method doesn’t include independent thought.

Examples: Paraphrasing source material. Write segments of sources in your own words. Quoting the source also goes under this technique. In every case of using examples, make sure to cite the source.

Multiple Reasons: Using multiple reasons, mostly two goals, is known as an extremely effective method.

Strawman: Present one argument against a thesis. Though, show this factor is weak. The advantage of this method is to teach awareness about the other side of the argument. This type of evidence presents an introduction and description. It is followed by the opposing factor and a decisive factor.

Concession: This technique illustrates the opposing viewpoint. It shows the positives being much stronger than the negatives.

Compare and Contrast: Compare and contrast methods allow writers to examine two sources at once. Comparing shows similarities, as contrasting shows the differences. Illustrating an in-depth analysis of the chosen is possible.

How to Format Synthesis Essay?

The synthesis essay format depends on what style is required by your teacher or professor. The most common formats are: MLA, APA, and Chicago style. APA is used by fields of Education, Psychology, and Science. MLA is used for citing Humanities, and Chicago style is used for Business, History, and Fine Arts. Purdue Owl is a format guide that focuses mainly on MLA and APA, and Easybib is a citation multitool for any of your external sources.


Synthesis essay formats

MLA Format

Some key points are:

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced
  • 1” margins
  • Top right includes last name and page number on every page
  • Titles are centered
  • The header should include your name, your professor’s name, course number and the date (dd/mm/yy)
  • The last page includes a Works Cited

APA Format

Some key points are:

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced 1” margins
  • Include a page header on the top of every page
  • Insert page number on the right
  • The synthesis essay structure should be divided into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.

Chicago Style

Some key points are:

  • Times New Roman 12 pt.
  • Use double-spacing amongst the lines of the paper.
  • Use one-inch margins.
  • Use ½ Inch Idents for Paragraph Beginnings.
  • Write with left-justified text that has a rugged edge.
  • Use full names of people or organizations.
  • The bibliography is to be on a separate page.

Synthesis Essay Rubric

High range essay (8-9 points)

  • Effectively develops a position on the assigned topic.
  • Demonstrates full understanding of the sources or text.
  • Correctly synthesizes sources and strengthens a position. The writer drives the argument, not the sources.
  • The writer’s argument is convincing.
  • The writer makes no general assertions and cites specific evidence for each point. His/her evidence is developed and answers the “so what?” question.
  • The essay is clear, well-organized, and coherent. It is a stand-alone piece rather than an exam response.
  • Contains very few grammatical and spelling errors or flaws, if any.

Note: 8-9s are rare. A strong ‘7’ paper can jump to an 8-9 if the writing style is mature and perceptive.

Middle-Range Essay (5-7)

  • Adequately develops a position on the assigned topic.
  • Demonstrates sufficient understanding of the ideas developed in sources
  • Sufficiently summarizes the sources and assumes some control of the argument. Those rated ‘5’ are less focused than a ‘6’ and a ‘7’.
  • The writer's argument is sufficient but less developed.
  • The writer successfully synthesizes the sources and cites them.
  • The writer answers the “So what?” question but may use generalizations or assertions of universal truth. The writer cites their own experience and specific evidence.
  • The paper is clear and well organized. ‘5’s are less so.
  • Contains few minor errors of grammar or syntax.

Note: A ‘7’ is awarded to papers of college-level writing.
A ‘5’ on one of the AP English Language and Composition essays designates a three on the AP exam. It most likely relies on generalizations has limited control of the claim and argument. ‘5’s often lose focus and digress.

Low-Range Essays (1-4)

  • Inadequately develops a position on the assigned topic.
  • The author misunderstands and simplifies the ideas developed in the sources.
  • Over-summarizes the sources, lets the sources drive the argument.
  • The writer has weak control of organization and syntax. The paper contains numerous grammatical/spelling errors.
  • The writer does not cite the sources correctly, skips a citation, or cites fewer than the required minimum of the sources.
  • Notes: those papers ranked ‘4’ or ‘3’ do assert an argument but do not sufficiently develop it.
  • A ‘2’ does not develop an argument.
  • A ‘1’ has severe writing errors and does not assert a claim.

Synthesis Essay Example

Have you read the whole article and still struggling? Check out these winning synthesis essay examples — from our professional essay writers. Feel free to use them as a reference.

Unaccompanied Minors and Migration
This is an example of a well-structured synthesis paper and addresses a contemporary issue. The author writes a detailed analysis of unaccompanied minors engaging in illegal migration.

Synthesis Essay Example: Unaccompanied Minors and Migration

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