INTRODUCTION TO SYNTHESES
(mostly from Cassie Carter - with her kind permission)
- What is a synthesis?
Two types of syntheses
Standards for synthesis essays
How to write synthesis essays
Techniques for developing synthesis essays
Thesis statements, introductions, conclusions, and quotations
WHAT IS A SYNTHESIS?
A synthesis is a written discussion that draws on one or more sources. It follows that your ability to write syntheses depends on your ability to infer relationships among sources - essays, articles, fiction, and also nonwritten sources, such as lectures, interviews, observations. This process is nothing new for you, since you infer relationships all the time - say, between something you've read in the newspaper and something you've seen for yourself, or between the teaching styles of your favorite and least favorite instructors. In fact, if you've written research papers, you've already written syntheses. In an academic synthesis, you make explicit the relationships that you have inferred among separate sources.
The skills you've already been practicing in this course will be vital in writing syntheses. Clearly, before you're in a position to draw relationships between two or more sources, you must understand what those sources say; in other words, you must be able to summarize these sources. It will frequently be helpful for your readers if you provide at least partial summaries of sources in your synthesis essays. At the same time, you must go beyond summary to make judgments - judgments based, of course, on your critical reading of your sources - as you have practiced in your reading responses and in class discussions. You should already have drawn some conclusions about the quality and validity of these sources; and you should know how much you agree or disagree with the points made in your sources and the reasons for your agreement or disagreement.
Further, you must go beyond the critique of individual sources to determine the relationship among them. Is the information in source B, for example, an extended illustration of the generalizations in source A? Would it be useful to compare and contrast source C with source B? Having read and considered sources A, B, and C, can you infer something else - D (not a source, but your own idea)?
Because a synthesis is based on two or more sources, you will need to be selective when choosing information from each. It would be neither possible nor desirable, for instance, to discuss in a ten-page paper on the battle of Wounded Knee every point that the authors of two books make about their subject. What you as a writer must do is select the ideas and information from each source that best allow you to achieve your purpose.
Your purpose in reading source materials and then in drawing upon them to write your own material is often reflected in the wording of an assignment. For example, your assignment may ask that you evaluate a text, argue a position on a topic, explain cause and effect relationships, or compare and contrast items. While you might use the same sources in writing an argumentative essay as your classmate uses in writing a comparison/contrast essay, you will make different uses of those sources based on the different purposes of the assignments. What you find worthy of detailed analysis in Source A may be mentioned only in passing by your classmate.
USING YOUR SOURCES
Your purpose determines not only what parts of your sources you will use but also how you will relate them to one another. Since the very essence of synthesis is the combining of information and ideas, you must have some basis on which to combine them. Some relationships among the material in you sources must make them worth sythesizing. It follows that the better able you are to discover such relationships, the better able you will be to use your sources in writing syntheses. Your purpose in writing (based on your assignment) will determine how you relate your source materials to one another. Your purpose in writing determines which sources you use, which parts of them you use, at which points in your essay you use them, and in what manner you relate them to one another.
TWO TYPES OF SYNTHESES
THE ARGUMENT SYNTHESIS: The purpose of an argument synthesis is for you to present your own point of view - supported, of course, by relevant facts, drawn from sources, and presented in a logical manner. The thesis of an argumentative essay is debatable. It makes a proposition about which reasonable people could disagree, and any two writers working with the same source materials could conceive of and support other, opposite theses.
STANDARDS FOR SYNTHESIS ESSAYS
2. Keep in mind that original thought and insightful analysis are required for a 4.0, 3.5, or 3.0 paper; 2.5 and below evaluations tend not to present original ideas.
3. A 4.0, 3.5, or 3.0 paper will create a "dialogue" between the essay author's ideas and her sources, and also among the sources themselves. 2.5 and below evaluations will often summarize one point at a time, with the essay author's idea stated at the end. If you imagine a synthesis essay as a room in which the synthesis writer is joined by the authors of her/his sources, the 4.0, 3.5, or 3.0 essay has everyone engaged in conversation or debate, with everyone commenting on (or arguing against) each other's ideas directly. In the 2.5 and below essay, each person in the room stands up in turn, gives a speech, and sits down, with little or no question and answer period in between or afterward.
4. Take special care to address your audience in an appropriate manner. Make sure you establish your credibility on the subject and that you provide sufficient information to make your argument (thesis) convincing.
- 5. Organize your paper logically:
- A. State your thesis clearly and make sure that it reflects the focus of your essay.
- B. Make sure your main points are clearly stated (use topic sentences), and connect each point to your thesis as explicitly as possible.
- C. Divide paragraphs logically.
- D. Provide appropriate transitions both within and between paragraphs.
7. Select words precisely. When in doubt, use a dictionary!
8. Make sure sentences are clear and unambiguous. Avoid passive voice. Double-check to see that sentences are adequately varied in length and style, and that there are no fragments or run-ons. Also proofread carefully to correct any other sentence errors.
9. Proofread carefully to identify and correct mechanical errors, such as errors in plurals or possessives, subject-verb agreement, shifts in verb tense or person ("you"), comma errors, spelling errors, and so on.
10. Quadruple check your MLA documentation. Are your parenthetical citations correct? Is your Works Cited list correct according to MLA style, and does it include all sources cited in your essay?
11. Be sure to give your essay a descriptive and attention-getting title (NOT "Synthesis," for goodness sake!!!).
12. Make sure your essay is formatted correctly and posted to your web site correctly.
HOW TO WRITE SYNTHESIS ESSAYS
- Consider your purpose in writing. Read the topic assignment carefully. What are you trying to accomplish in your essay? How will this purpose shape the way you approach your sources?
- Select and carefully read your sources, according to your purpose. Re-read the sources, mentally summarizing each. Identify those aspects or parts of your sources that will help you in fulfilling your purpose. When rereading, label or underline the passages for main ideas, key terms, and any details you want to use in the synthesis.
- Formulate a thesis. Your thesis is the main idea that you want to present in your synthesis. It must be expressed as a complete sentence and include a statement of the topic and your assertion about that topic. Sometimes the thesis is the first sentence, but more often it is the final sentence of the first paragraph.
- Decide how you will use your source material and take notes. How will the information and the ideas in your sources help you to fulfill your purpose? Re-read your sources and write down the information from your sources that will best develop and support your thesis.
- Develop and organizational plan, according to your thesis. (See Techniques for Developing Synthesis Essays immediately below.) How will you arrange your material? It is not necessary to prepare a formal outline, but you should have some plan in mind that will indicate the order in which you will present your material and that will indicate the relationships among your sources.
- Write the first draft of your synthesis, following your organizational plan. Be flexible with your plan, however, and allow yourself room to incorporate new ideas you discover as you write. As you discover and incorporate new ideas, re-read your work frequently to ensure that your thesis still accounts for what follows and that what follows still logically supports your thesis.
- Document your sources. Use MLA-style in-text citations and a Works Cited list to credit your sources for all material you quote, paraphrase, or summarize. For example, if I wanted to note in my essay the difference between name-calling and argumentum ad hominem as personal forms of attack, I would credit the article on "Politics: The Art of Bamboozling" fromWARAC by offering a citation that includes the author's last name and the exact page number where she discussed this notion (Cross 302). At the end of the essay, I would have a complete bibliographic citation for the "Politics" article.
- Revise your synthesis. Insert transitional words and phrases where necessary. Integrate all quotations so they flow smoothly within your own sentences. Use attribution phrases to distinguish between your sources' ideas and your own ideas. Make sure the essay reads smoothly, logically, and clearly from beginning to end. Check for grammatical correctness, punctuation, and spelling.
TECHNIQUES FOR DEVELOPING SYNTHESIS ESSAYS
Summary can be useful - and sophisticated - if handled judiciously, selectively, and in combination with other techniques. At some time you may need to summarize a crucial source in some detail. At another point, you may wish to summarize a key section or paragraph of a source in a single sentence. Try to anticipate what your reader needs to know at any given point of your paper in order to comprehend or appreciate fully the point you are making.
EXAMPLE OR ILLUSTRATION: At one or more points in your paper, you may wish to refer to a particularly illuminating example or illustration from your source material. You might paraphrase this example (i.e., recount it, in some detail, in your own words), summarize it, or quote it directly from your source. In all these cases, of course, you would properly credit your source.
TWO (OR MORE) REASONS: The "two reasons" approach can be an extremely effective method of development. You simply state your thesis, then offer reasons why the statement is true, supported by evidence from your sources. You can advance as many reasons for the truth of your thesis as needed; but save the most important reason(s) for last, because the end of the paper is what will remain most clearly in the reader's mind.
STRAWMAN: When you use the strawman technique, you present an argument against your thesis, but immediately afterward you show that this argument is weak or flawed. The advantage of this technique is that you demonstrate your awareness of the other side of the argument and show that you are prepared to answer it. The strawman argument first presents an introduction and thesis, then the main opposing argument, a refutation of the opposing argument, and finally a positive argument.
CONCESSION: Like the strawman, the concession technique presents the opposing viewpoint, but it does not proceed to demolish the opposition. Instead, it concedes that the opposition has a valid point but that, even so, the positive argument is the stronger one. This method is particularly valuable when you know your reader holds the opposing view.
COMPARISON AND CONTRAST: Comparison and contrast techniques enable you to examine two subjects (or sources) in terms of one another. When you compare, you consider similarities. When you contrast, you consider differences. By comparing and contrasting, you perform a multifaceted analysis that often suggests subtleties that otherwise might not have come to your attention.
To organize a comparison/contrast analysis, you must carefully read sources in order to discover significant criteria for analysis. A criterion is a specific point to which both of your authors refer and about which they may agree or disagree. The best criteria are those that allow you not only to account for obvious similarities and differences between sources but also to plumb deeper, to more subtle and significant similarities and differences. There are two basic formulas for comparison/contrast analysis:
|I. Introduce essay, state thesis||I. Introduce essay, state thesis|
|II. Summarize passage A||II. Introduce Criterion 1|
|A. View on Criterion I||A. Passage A's viewpoint|
|B. View on Criterion 2||B. Passage B's viewpoint|
|III. Summarize passage B||III. Introduce Criterion 2|
|A. View on Criterion 1||A. Passage A's viewpoint|
|B. View on Criterion 2||B. Passage B's viewpoint|
|IV. Discussion and conclusion||IV. Discussion and conclusion|
First of all, it is important to explain what the word "synthesis" means. It is a mix of elements used to draw the whole picture. That is how one can conclude that a synthesis essay stands for the sort of essay which combines various points into a whole to defend so-called thesis statement. A thesis is the main idea of the essay. Students should write it in the last sentence of their introduction. Frequently, it comes with a piece that a student has to observe.
The main success factor of writing a good synthesis essay is an in-depth research based on the relevant sources. A student has to perceive the goal of the analyzed content, its rhetoric, and the arguments suggested by the author. To make it short, the writer simply has to provide an answer to the question: "So what?" Type in your personal claim. The rest of your synthesis essay in English should be built around that main sentence.
Choose Synthesis Essay Topic Before You Write the First Page
Sometimes, the teacher does not provide a specific topic or question to answer. In that cases, the student has a right to select any topic for his synthesis essay. Mind that your entire writing will be limited to the chosen question, so make your decision wisely. Select a topic for which it would be easy to write as many arguments as needed. Usually, there are 3-5 arguments in the academic essay.
The prompt has to be debatable. It has to motivate the readers to continue the discussion. Several centuries ago, the US population would support the ideas of Andrew Jackson concerning the negative sides of Native American people. However, today the situation is completely different. Any sort of discrimination is forbidden in the United States. The way you select the primary questions depends on your specific task. Make sure to decide on the text that may have opposing views. In other words, choose an article with the strong argument which may encourage your readers not just to read the synthesis essay from cover to cover, but also go on discussing the selected questions.
The best topics for your essay writing would always sound negotiable like these examples:
- Minimum salary
- For and against abortions
- Global warming
- Regulations for immigrants
- Daylight storage
- Gun control
- Drug abuse
- Social media
- Artificial intelligence
- Political authorities
- Alcohol and tobacco restrictions
- Anorexia nervosa
It is easy to find the sufficient amount of information on any of these essay topics as they are relevant for people of all times, ages, and nationalities.
Writing Thesis Statement and Outline Page
After you decide on your topic or main questions to discuss, move to your sources. Make sure all gathered sources are related to your essay topic. Also, they have to be no older than 5-10 years as things change dynamically.
Thoroughly study all sources to get the main point. Select the best sources to use citations from them in your essay. It will serve as a perfect evidence to support your argument. Structure your claim. Write down thesis statement which is the main idea of the whole synthesis essay.
Thesis example: With the help of historical episodes, it is possible to point to the human evolution based on how infinity was interpreted in different epochs.
Another example: Only through an understanding of the causes of medical mistakes and their prevention on the early stages, the number of medical gaps will go down as well as the number of unintentional deaths in the United States.
You can view more example online without paying a cent.
As for the outline, this is a plan of your synthesis essay. Writing this part will assist you in maintaining the structure of your essay. In case your essay is going to have three main sections, divide the outline into three chunks respectively. Insert evidence to support your thesis, include sub-arguments along with all specific points. Every part should have a name (except for the introduction and conclusion- you may leave them this way). Every point (which is also an argument) must prove the major claim of your essay. Avoid additional information or tangents as these elements may hinder the essay. It is recommended to write down the information which contradicts with your thesis. It will make the essay more persuasive. Your synthesis essay has to be as strong as possible.
The Structure of Any Type of a Good Academic Essay
Read all sources thoroughly, especially when you work with articles instead of the thick books. Never summarize sources or copy-paste ideas of other authors. It is strictly forbidden. You may write summaries only if you have to write an annotated bibliography. Synthesis denotes analysis instead of the abstracts of your readings.
The example of your essay structure may be:
- Argument #1
- Argument #2
- Argument #3
- Argument 1
- Evidence (cite a source)
- Analysis of Evidence
- Argument 2
- Evidence (cite a source)
- Analysis of Evidence
- Argument 3
- Evidence (cite a source)
- Analysis of Evidence
- Argument 1
- Restate thesis and answer all the questions left behind
What about the Writing Style?
Formatting is an important condition of the successful synthesis essay. Academic writing defines several formats. Their names are related to the scientific or educational organizations that established these styles.
The most widespread formats are:
The first one is applied to the essays in Humanities. The second one is used while writing essays on Education, Psychology, and Science. Turabian or Chicago format is excellent for Business, History, and Fine Arts.
There is a Purdue Owl guide available online for free which can tell more about each of the existing academic writing styles. It has all the details about MLA and APA, while Easybib and some other online citation generators help students to format essays automatically. Simply insert your external sources to get proper citations for them.
Here are the basic nuances to consider:
- Times New Roman
- 12 pt font
- Double-spaced text
- 1" margins all around
- Top right of the page should have student's last name and page number
- Titles and headings are put in the center
- The header must have your name, your professor's name, course number, and the full date (dd/mm/yy)
- The last page is Bibliography page (a.k.a. Works Cited or References)
It is an example of MLA synthesis essay. Other examples and templates are available online for free. You can find an example of a page in APA style here.
Features of an AP Synthesis Essay in English
AP English Language and Composition is a separate academic course. Students who are enrolled in this class must perform a deep understanding of the subject matter through using various sources and operating with the information they already know. Grammar, spelling, structure, and originality might be insufficient to receive the highest score on your AP exam. The writing has to be "defending, challenging, qualifying the claim." Once you obtain the course syllabus, it is better to study it to learn the exact test dates and what it would look like.
It is important to concentrate on three main branches of the AP English and Composition. Those are argument, synthesis, and rhetoric. That is why all three elements should be present in your synthesis essay. Let’s have a closer look.
The argument is the simplest part; it's about writing your thesis and gathering evidence from the selected sources to defend your ideas. Prove to your reader that your point of view is correct.
Synthesis demands that a student reads multiple sources and defines pros and cons of the chosen topic (or for and against, if you wish). It is critical as it helps to create your personal claim.
Rhetorical analysis is all about the author and his goals. It has to explain the purpose of writing as well as describe the target audience. Finally, it explains the ways in which the writer attracts the readers and structures the claim.
Useful Prompts Associated with Writing Synthesis Essay
Memorize these acronyms to be able to answer all questions of your synthesis essay properly.
Advice #1: SOAPS
It's all about determining the speaker, occasion, audience, purpose, and subject.
Have a look at our example: The American Health Association believes that only through an understanding of the causes of medical mistakes and their prevention on the early stages, the number of medical gaps will go down as well as the number of unintentional deaths in the United States.
Speaker: The American Health Association has a bias against the inexperienced medical personnel.
Occasion: The American Health Association has held its meeting on Abbey Square, New York, on the 10th of November 2016.
Audience: The report written by The American Health Association was addressed to the doctors of the main regional hospitals in NY.
Purpose: The American Health Association tries to point to the main causes of unintentional deaths in the US hospitals. It performs against the improper medical treatment.
Subject: The subject is the increased number of fatal outcomes due to the lack of healthcare education and professionalism of the local personnel.
Advice #2: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos
We are speaking about the reasons, philosophy, and emotion respectively. AP Lang exam requires you to deal with all three Latin words effectively.
When there are some facts and statistics in the chosen text, the writer deals with Logos. Return to the background information all the time to make your synthesis essay as persuasive a possible.
The vivid imagery and powerful words are the signs of Pathos. It is effective for relating the readers to the essay on the emotional level.
If you aim to show the accountability and credibility of your synthesis essay, you deal with Ethos. State some facts that prove your competence in the chosen field so that the audience will have no doubt that you are right.
Watch out as often, Logos, Ethos, and Pathos may lead to the usage of logical fallacies.
It would be a great strategy for any sort of textual analysis. When you are reading the selected piece, make an attempt to pinpoint Diction, Imagery, Details, Language, and Sentence Structure. Add whatever seems more vivid to you into your analysis.
As you can see, it is not that easy to write a synthesis essay. Many students have problems either with writing or analyzing sources. Luckily, there is an opportunity to order an instant help with synthesis essay for an affordable price. When you face any doubts, turn to the expert online service which will write the whole essay to bring you to the highest score!
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