How to Write a Synthesis Essay

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Synthesis essays are not as popular as argumentative or analytical essays. Still, you can be assigned to write this type of essay when you study at high school, college, or university. Writing a synthesis essay is also a part of an exam that you have to pass in order to complete the AP English Language and Composition course. As this essay type is uncommon, we will provide you with a detailed and simple guide on how to write a synthesis essay.

What Is a Synthesis Essay?

A synthesis essay is a type of writing that offers a unique viewpoint on a chosen topic backed up with information from multiple sources. It is similar to research papers but has a few limitations.

Firstly, when you write an AP synthesis essay, you don’t have to look for the necessary sources by yourself, as they’re provided in the text of your assignment. The only thing you need to do is pick three or four sources in order to argue the topic. Secondly, you’ll have certain time limitations during the exam. You will have to complete three writing tasks (argument, analysis, and synthesis) in two hours. Finally, topics for synthesis essays are usually broader than ones for research papers.

The AP English Language and Composition exam is not aimed at evaluating students’ knowledge of a specific discipline. Its main purpose is to examine your writing and rhetorical skills, so all topics are debatable and understandable, as they don’t require reading specialized literature.

In general, a synthesis essay has to demonstrate your language competence, not your analytical thinking skills. Still, you should follow a particular logic to make your text readable and to get a higher score.

Synthesis Essay: Writing Steps

When you compose a synthesis essay, especially for the AP exam, you don’t have much time. Therefore, you need perfect planning. Below, we offer you writing steps divided into three stages for your comfort.

Preparatory Work

1. Read instructions thoroughly

Understanding the prompt is crucial for providing a brilliant synthesis essay. Make sure that you take into account all the aspects of the topic.

2. Think about the topic

Sure, you won’t have much time for a full-scale brainstorming session during the exam. Still, you have to look at the suggested theme from different perspectives in order to formulate your unique and interesting viewpoint.

3. Compose a preliminary thesis statement

Write down the first clear idea that will come to your mind after you read the prompt. It doesn’t need to be perfect, as you’ll have a chance to make changes later. The main purpose of this step is to create a base for the further writing process. A good thesis statement is a sentence that answers three questions about your essay at the same time: what, how, and why.

4. Choose sources

When taking an exam, this step is easier than when doing an academic assignment, as all the sources are specified. You have to pick three or four sources of various formats that will enforce your point of view. If you are preparing a synthesis essay for a university, you can use more than four sources, but make sure that you analyze and present properly the ideas of each author.

4. Read the chosen sources thoroughly

Remember that you don’t have much time when you take the exam, so don’t waste it for reading all the provided sources. Only after picking several texts will you begin a detailed reading. You can make short annotations and take notes in order to summarize the main ideas of the chosen sources.

5. Find connections between the sources and your claim

This is the main aspect of any synthesis essay. If you don’t succeed in finding out and explaining to your readers how the chosen sources are related to your thesis, you won’t get a high score for your essay. The sources that you choose shouldn’t necessarily prove your point of view. They can even be contradictory, but links between them have to be clear.

Drafting Your Essay

To simplify the writing process, we suggest you to use a standard five-paragraph structure: one paragraph for your introduction, three paragraphs for the main body, and one more for your conclusion.

Let’s take a closer look at each part of a synthesis essay.

1. Introduction

An introduction is an extremely important part of your essay, as it has three crucial functions. First of all, you introduce your topic and provide some background information that is necessary for understanding the theme. The next task is to present your sources, as they provide the base for your synthesis essay. Finally, you include your thesis statement in your introduction. Don’t forget that your claim should be relevant to your body paragraphs. As a rule, an introductory section is about 10% of the whole text and consists only of one paragraph.

2. The main body

This part covers about 80% of your synthesis essay. Each paragraph should include a focal point and several quotes that serve as arguments. You should follow the rule of one paragraph, one idea. However, don’t omit the logical connections between parts of the main body and different sources. Your main purpose is to show how you can synthesize multiple sources in order to prove your personal point of view.

3. Conclusion

When you write the concluding part of your essay, the main thing is to show confidence. A confident tone will persuade your readers that your viewpoint is correct and your argumentation is immaculate. Restate your thesis statement and summarize connections between your initial claim and cited sources. Be concise and avoid long phrases: your conclusion should be only 10% of the whole text.

Final Touches

1. Reread your essay

It is hard to do everything perfectly on the first try. In order to notice all the mistakes and inaccuracies, reread your writing thoroughly.

2. Write a final thesis statement

Make sure that your thesis statement is relevant to the main body. If not, rewrite it to create a smooth connection between your claim and argumentation.

3. Edit your text

If you’re sure that everything is fine with the content of your synthesis essay, it’s time to get rid of grammatical mistakes, poor wording, spelling mistakes, and incorrect punctuation. Remember that even the most eloquent text will look like the work of an amateur if there are dozens of mistakes.

5 Helpful Tips to Write a Synthesis Essay

1. Acceptable number of sources

If you need to take the AP exam, you have to use at least three sources (you can use a maximum of four sources). If you must write a synthesis essay as an academic assignment, you may use more sources. However, we don’t recommend you to exceed the limit of six sources, as it can be very hard to present a greater number of works in a proper way. You can cite the same source several times, and it will still be considered as one source.

2. Proper citation

When you include a quote in your essay, introduce, punctuate, and cite it properly. Mention the author’s name and use quotation marks if necessary. In parentheses, write the title of your source.

3. Counter-argument

Addressing a counter-argument is a helpful argumentation strategy. In such a way, you demonstrate that your point of view on this particular topic is not unique. However, you can show that the counter-argument is weak, and this will convince your readers that your claim is more valid.

4. Language skills

This tip is mostly accurate for the AP exam. The free-response writing section, which includes a synthesis essay, is aimed at evaluating your language performance. Don’t hesitate to use fancy wording, terms, complex grammar structures, linking words, and figures of speech that will demonstrate your language skills.

5. Importance of the form

The main purpose of the synthesis essay is to show how you can use multiple sources and create connections between them and demonstrate your writing skills. Your top priority is not offering a unique point of view that will amaze your readers. Of course, a bit of novelty won’t hurt. Still, your primary task is to be eloquent and logical, not creative.

We hope that you’ve learned more about a synthesis essay thanks to our guide. Practice your writing regularly in order to achieve great results and get higher scores!