We know that a task to write a synthesis essay might be confusing if you do not understand its purpose, types, and format. But do not panic. Writing synthesis essays can certainly pose a challenge but only for those who don't know what they're doing. Here is the complete guide with everything you need to know to write an A-level synthesis essay.
What Is a Synthesis Essay?
The first step to understanding how to write a good synthesis essay is to understand its definition and goal. Synthesis essay is a piece of academic writing that discusses a particular idea, combining information from different sources. Its aim is to check how well students can deal with research and analyze sources. Teachers commonly use it as an assignment for the AP English Language and Composition exam. However, it can also be assigned as a practice for students to teach them how to work with different sources. It may seem easy to write a synthesis essay but it can be much harder to do your research for one.
It might sound similar to an expository essay. Yet, there is a difference between the two types of papers. Writing a synthesis essay, you will need to combine information from several sources to support one basic argument. The emergent idea will be unique in a way that it would not possibly exist without the synthesis of these references. This is not required in other types of assignments. Besides, synthesis essay sources are usually predetermined and given together with a prompt.
Before starting your draft, you need to decide on the type of synthesis to use. Generally, we distinguish two types: explanatory and argument synthesis.
- Explanatory Synthesis
Explanatory synthesis requires you to research a certain topic and present the facts taken from various sources in an objective manner. You do not need to argue or persuade anyone in the correctness of your stance. Instead, you should structure solid facts into a comprehensive text. Explanatory synthesis helps to gain knowledge on a topic and look at it from different perspectives.
- Argument Synthesis
For argument synthesis, you will need to create an argument, answering a particular prompt. Argumentative synthesis essays are not just about your understanding of a matter subject. Argumentative essay is about proving a point.
You should also provide justification for your thesis and introduce supporting ideas just as you do in an argumentative essay. Take relevant facts and evidence from the assigned reading materials and synthesize them in a way to draw your own conclusions throughout your synthesis paper. Writing an argumentative synthesis essay is more enjoyable for those who prefer the thrill of a debate.
Debatable Topics for Writing a Synthesis Essay
Synthesis essays allow students to use a wide range of topics. The only requirement is that they must be arguable. Here are a couple of synthesis essay prompt examples:
- Do gory movies provoke violent behavior in teens?
- Is progressive taxation fair?
- Do you consider affirmative action ethical?
- Is in-class education better than homeschooling?
- Are there any instances when censorship is beneficial?
- Should all citizens be involved in community service?
- Can technology improve students' communication skills?
- Are there any cases when torture can be justified?
- Has the #MeToo movement forgotten its initial aim?
- Is an equal number of male and female workers absolutely necessary?
- Can religion be dangerous?
- Are mobile banking operations safe?
- Should parents check their child's browsing history?
- Is euthanasia moral?
- Is online dating risky?
- What is a gap year and should you take it or not?
Synthesis Essay Structure
How do you write a synthesis essay? Usually, synthesis essays use a traditional 5-paragraph structure with an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Understanding of a synthesis essay outline is crucial if you want to write it well.
How to Start a Synthesis Essay
In an introductory paragraph, you should capture the reader's attention. Think about how to introduce your synthesis essay topic best and show its relevance. You can start with a piece of statistical data, a thought-provoking question, or a striking fact. Then, provide some background information about the topic and your sources to help the reader understand your stance.
Example: Human fascination with wildlife may sometimes take a degenerate form. A lot of rare species are kept in captivity in aquariums, zoos, and circuses. They live without appropriate care and maintenance.
The last sentence of an introduction is a thesis statement, which requires particular attention. We will discuss it below.
How to Write a Synthesis Essay Thesis
To write a strong thesis statement, think about the general idea that unites all your readings. Note what the main takeaway of each text is. Then, synthesize these thoughts into a central thesis of your essay. Study your sources carefully and draw evidence from them. A strong thesis statement must be connected with every single source that you are required to read. For instance:
- Text A tells us that animals feel stressed when living far from their natural habitat.
- Text B discusses distortions in the social groups of animals in captivity.
We need to synthesize these two thoughts from different texts. Then, we can expand the idea and state that keeping animals in captivity is immoral because it harms their well-being. So, having analyzed two different texts, we have determined a common thread between them. It allowed us to come up with a thesis that combines both ideas.
Make sure a point of view in your thesis is clear and objective. You can use a parallel structure to show the synthesis of several ideas. A thesis statement should reflect a central idea of the whole piece, supported in each body paragraph.
Have a glance at one of the possible synthesis essay thesis examples suitable for our introductory paragraph from the previous section.
Example: Keeping animals in captivity is cruel because it deprives them of the possibility to live in their natural social groups and causes irreversible behavioral problems.
How to Write a Synthesis Paper Body
Usually, the body of a synthesis essay consists of three separate paragraphs in every sample synthesis essay. It doesn’t matter if it’s an argumentative essay or an expository essay - the structure remains the same. Argumentative essays simply have a different focus. Each of them should focus on one particular idea that supports a thesis statement. Use at least three sources to back up your claims in each paragraph. It would be better if you use evidence from all your assigned readings. However, do not just drop random facts. Include only relevant proofs of your argument. When incorporating evidence, do not forget to comment on how this information underpins the central idea of the paragraph and your thesis statement.
Check the example of a body paragraph. Pay attention that you need to start it with a topic sentence, which introduces the focal point of the whole paragraph. Then, you can add supporting ideas and findings from the texts you are required to read. End your paragraph with a concluding sentence and restate the main points of the paragraph.
Example: Unnatural living conditions make animals develop abnormal behavioral patterns. Because of the continuous flow of visitors, they may become stressed or even depressed. It can be manifested in irregular pacing behavior and even self-mutilation. Besides, animals are often forced to leave their complex social groups and live alone, which is a common cause of anxiety. They lose interest in any kind of activity or physical exercise. Thus, these consequences show that captivity lowers the quality of life for most species.
How to Conclude a Synthesis Essay
To conclude a synthesis essay, restate a thesis statement and prove the relevance of your findings. Summarize the main points to help the reader memorize them. Make sure you do not leave any ambiguities. You can include a call to action as a final sentence of your synthesis essay and outline how the topic can be investigated further.
Example: All things considered, depriving animals of freedom is an immoral act. It puts them at risk of developing anxiety and depression. Animals' physical health is also endangered because of unsatisfactory living conditions. Such a lifestyle violates the rights of wild animals and threatens their well-being.