Synthesis Essay: A Complete Tutorial For Students

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Greetings, everyone! Welcome back once again to Nerdify academic guide. It’s great to see you again today.

Are you ready to enter the world of knowledge? If so, fasten your seatbelts and take down notes!

What is a Synthesis Essay?

According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word “synthesis” is defined as “the composition or combination of parts or elements to form a whole.”

The Miami Coral Park Senior High School states that in a synthesis essay, you are expected to draw information from various sources (provided by your teacher) to make a claim/thesis (i.e., the whole) about your topic.

A synthesis essay requires you to evaluate and establish the relationship between both sides of the argument.

This type of essay is not meant to summarize your sources. Instead, your references should be used to assert your thesis statement or claim.

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Synthesis Essay Outline and Structure

This is a sample outline for your synthesis essay. You can change some elements depending on your preferences.

  • Background information/context of your topic (a summary would do)
  • Why do you think your topic is a subject of debate? Or why is your topic controversial?
  • Your thesis

Point #1

  • Evidence/supporting claim
  • Your analysis/evaluation of your first point

Point #2

  • Evidence/supporting claim
  • Your analysis/evaluation of your second point

Point #3

  • Evidence/supporting claim
  • Your analysis/evaluation of your third point

A resolution

  • Combines all of your main points in an attempt to establish common ground (depending on what is asked in the essay prompt)
  • A brief summary of the main points of your essay
  • Reassert your thesis statement
  • Final notes/insights

How to Write a Synthesis Essay?

Read/find a topic!

  1. If your teacher provided you a prompt, be sure to read it carefully. Follow the directions stated in the prompt. Moreover, you will also know the synthesis paper’s objective or purpose.
  2. If you are looking for a topic, find something debatable, such as video games and aggression/violence or gun control.

Read (again) your sources/find your sources!

  1. You will need about three to seven sources for your synthesis essay. It may vary between instructors, so please take note of the minimum number of sources you can include in your paper.
  2. If your teacher gave you predetermined sources, read and take down notes. The sources he/she will provide tackle different viewpoints of your prompt.

Form your thesis statement!

  1. You can do this after you have read your sources for your paper.
  2. Given these sources, what will be your perspective on this issue? Keep the objective/purpose of your paper in mind as you formulate your thesis.
  3. Your thesis statement is your main argument or claim in your paper.


Organize everything into an outline. It prevents your paper from appearing too messy or scattered.


  1. Each paragraph must be dedicated to one topic, viewpoint, or theme. If you want to state a different point, please dedicate another section for it.
  2. Cite your sources correctly (APA, Chicago, Harvard, and MLA).
  3. I believe this is counted as academic writing. Hence, you have to write in the third person. Refrain from using the first person unless your instructor allows you.


Read your paper if you find anything unclear. Revise what needs to be revised. Check your paper for formatting and grammatical errors.

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10 Tips to Write a Synthesis Essay

Alright! Here are some tips for you to aid you in creating your synthesis essay.

Tip #1: Know the purpose!

  • You will have an idea on how you will structure your synthesis paper if you know its purpose. Please refer to your instructor’s essay prompt.
  • What does the prompt ask you to do? Are you tasked to formulate a recommendation or find a resolution between various viewpoints?
  • As stated by the Miami Coral Park Senior High School, you have to read (and understand) the prompt carefully. I can’t stress this enough! Not reading it carefully might jeopardize your grade.

Tip #2: Look for sample essays!

  • If it’s your first time writing a synthesis essay, then it’s best to look for samples online.
  • Observe how the writer structures his/her paper. Additionally, take note of the author’s style and tone.

Tip #3: Don’t just summarize!

  • You might be tempted to narrate or summarize your sources simply, but don’t do that!
  • A synthesis essay expects you to evaluate or analyze your sources. Don’t be afraid to voice out your thoughts. You might receive a deduction or a low grade if you summarize what the authors are saying.
  • You can use as many sources as you can (if your instructor did not provide you a limit) as long as you evaluate them.

Tip #4: Use some of these words!

The Owens Community College lists words that capture the author’s tone of writing.

Argumentative tone:

  1. Argues
  2. Affirms
  3. Believes
  4. Emphasizes

Explanatory tone:

  1. States
  2. Finds
  3. Mentions

Emphatic tone:

  1. Warns
  2. Advises
  3. Acknowledges
  4. Suggests

I would also like to add the following

  1. Challenges
  2. Demonstrates/illustrates
  3. Cautions
  4. Stresses

Tip #5: Arrange!

  • When organizing various arguments and viewpoints, I tend to arrange them from the most powerful to the least powerful (or vice versa).
  • What do I want to say? I encourage you to arrange your arguments according to their “strength.”

Tip #6: Explore!

  • If your school has an EBSCOhost database (or any research portal), then you use it to your advantage.
  • Of course, don’t just stick to the internet! Visit your campus library for more sources for your topic.
  • Try to be diverse in your resources- books, articles, journals, fact sheets, etc.
  • Wikipedia or any non-academic source is not allowed. This is academic writing.

Tip #7: Take down notes!

I’ve also stated this previously. You can try the “notecard method,” it’s simple:

  1. Prepare an index card.
  2. Write your outline on the index card. This is only for your reference.
  3. On a separate card, write the author’s name, title, and publishing date. You may include the parenthetical citation of that particular source.
  4. Ask yourself: Which part of my outline should I place this? (Ex: II. Body, Main point #1). Write it at the corner of your card.
  5. State his/her main points/arguments in your own words.
  6. You may opt to write your evaluation on the front or back part of your index card or paper.
  7. Group them together by category (i.e., Introduction, body, conclusion) and make sure they are arranged chronologically.

I’ve learned this when my high school teacher assigned the class to do a synthesis paper for the school year.

While I was not able to produce a paper by the end of the school year (I only reached the outlining stage), the process of creating notecards helped me organize all the information I’ve found.

Tip #9: Allot time!

Writing a synthesis paper is a lot more challenging than you think! This is why you should set aside a block of time for researching and drafting.

Don’t procrastinate unless you can write a quality essay. I’m telling you as early as now that synthesis essays are massive.

Tip #10: Review and practice!

What if it’s not a homework? But instead, it is part of an exam (AP English Language and Composition). What do I do? I have some suggestions for you.

Read about synthesis essays and study sample papers. If you want, you can practice getting the feel of the writing of a synthesis essay. Have a simulation of the exam. Research and write within the given time.

Have your sources prepared before your simulation. Then, try to write within the allotted time (Ex: 15 minutes)

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Wow! Congratulations! You have reached the end of my guide.

I know this topic is heavy for you, dear readers. After all, writing a synthesis essay is no joke. It takes a lot of effort and dedication to write it.

Good luck, my fellow readers! You can do it! The next thing you know, you already have a paper worth submitting to your teacher.

See you next time!

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