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How to Write a Synthesis Essay

A similar approach to a synthesis essay would be a compare and contrast piece where the subjects are laid out clearly and dissected into similarities and differences. A synthesis essay takes a different avenue – solidifying a position and defending it by providing, interpreting and incorporating legitimate sources. The whole point of this type of writing is to practice the ability to retain a confident grip on a set of ideals based on researched or provided facts.

What is a Synthesis Essay: Definition, Approach

First things first, what does synthesis mean? Synthesis revolves around working with a mix of elements or ideas and implementing them into one whole. Within this context, you probably got an assignment that involves several texts, and the aim is to dissect them. Synthesis usually requires a thesis, an idea that the essay bases on to get the point across. Playing with this idea is instrumental to college success.

How to Start Writing: Topics List and Thesis

Choosing a Topic

Picking a good topic is essential to write a reasoned paper. Like a research paper, a topic cannot be too vague or too specific. There must be enough room for discussion. If it is too broad, forming a compelling argument could prove challenging. If it is too specific, there would not be sufficient breathing room. Topics that incite a disagreement are usually quite compelling because there is no right or wrong answer. Synthesis essay topic examples include, but are not limited to:

Good Topic Suggestions

  • Abortion
  • There are quite a few approaches to this issue. You could discuss its ethical approach, its juridical viewpoint (Its legality and parallel to murder) among others. Get creative with it.
  • War
  • War is a sensitive topic, thus its effectiveness. The economic approach of armed conflict could be an argument for, but its disregard for innocent lives could be a con.
  • Globalization
  • What is globalization? Businesses try to develop international influence and thus infiltrate international markets. You could discuss its macro and microeconomic impact from the perspective of the international firm or a small domestic company that tries to compete on that level.
  • Alcoholism (Addiction) / Depression
  • The reason these two are tied is that it is perceived that one is a cause for the other. Further research about the issue may lead to a compelling argument and plenty of information to cite.
  • Literature / Art
  • Any creative output is bound to force multiple perspectives. Different interpretations are a great way of comparing, contrasting and perhaps settling on a conclusion.
  • Eugenics
  • Apart from being a cool word, it is also a fascinating concept. While it could be a tool to eradicate disease, meddling with the natural progression is a valid counterargument.
  • Minimum Wage
  • The debate over minimum wage is a huge issue within many governments. The right offers its abolishment, while the left calls for its increase. Exploring this concept provides much economic insight into the problem.

Bad Topic Samples

  • Global Warming
  • This could have been a good topic a few years ago, but nowadays it is overused and has way too much evidence from one side; this limits the scope of research and the formulation of a strong argument.
  • Death Penalty
  • Also a commonly used topic, its application in a mostly democratic world is questionable. That could have been a good approach to writing that type of paper a while ago, but the worldwide consensus on such a matter shows its ineffectiveness to spark a conversation.
  • Video Games
  • Upon further research, video games in modern culture do not correlate with violence. It could be interesting to delve into it, but it would not be extensive.
  • Volunteering
  • Self-explanatory. Volunteering is mostly positive, apart from a few exceptions.

How to Write a Thesis

The thesis is the most important building block of your essay. It structures a claim and shows the most important points. A thesis is written after a thorough examination of sources and is supposed to establish a position that you are taking. An example of a thesis statement would look something like this:

“Minimum wage should be abolished because a perfect capitalist system allows the market to decide how much a good or a service is worth and employers need to compete for employees as much as they need to compete for profit.”

How to Write an Outline

Before you scurry off to write your bombastic, controversial point of view, you need to plan. Make sure you have a particular approach to an outline.

An outline will help maintain the synthesis essay structure. Suppose you came up with your thesis statement already, and you have done enough research to solidify your claim. If the thesis statement has three parts, for example, divide the outline into three sections. Make sure that every part of the thesis proves the central claim. This type of generalization must be underlined in your essay as much as possible to make your case stronger. Be familiar with all of your sources and make sure you can analyze them, rather than summarize.

Synthesis Essay Outline Example


  • Provide Context within the field of study
  • Personal Anecdote (optional, but welcome)
  • Thesis (Minimum wage should be abolished because…)
  • Point 1 (functions of a capitalist economy and its market)
  • Point 2 (perfect competition)
  • Point 3 (Employee performance = Their revenue)


  • Point 1 expanded
  • Evidence (Best if accompanied by a source or quote, the more sources you use, the more credible your writing will seem)
  • In-depth evidence analysis
  • Point 2 expanded
  • Evidence
  • Analysis
  • Point 3
  • Evidence
  • Analysis
  • Counterargument (if applicable)


  • Restate main points and their significance; integrate them into a final statement.

How to Start a Synthesis Essay

  • Establish the way you want to argue and integrate it into your thesis.
  • Familiarize yourself with the sources. Be it in a prompt or an assignment, a lot of the analysis comes from the sources you use through the supporting arguments and the thesis.
  • An organizational plan accounts for reliable resource implementation. That means you should try to arrange more than just one source per point. Some may agree and disagree on the same topic. Your evaluation will decide which one has better logic and credibility.
  • After evaluation, fuse it with your interpretation and establish the relationship between each one. The writer drives the argument, not the sources.
  • Document every source as you go because you will need that for your citation page (refer to essay formatting).
  • Arrange the most critical evidence last (preferably).
  • Include a general progression where a problem is established and then solutions are offered.

How to Format a Synthesis Essay (MLA / APA)

For a thorough explanation of proper formatting, click here. Here are the most important things you need to know about formatting your essay.


  • Font
  • Times New Roman, 12pt
  • Spacing
  • Double spaced everywhere.
  • No extra spaces between paragraphs
  • Margins
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Title/Header
  • Titles are centered
  • The top left includes your full name, instructor’s name, course number and the date (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • The header must include last name and page number
  • Works Cited
  • Easybib is an excellent citation tool for the proper formatting of external sources.
  • Read our guidelines on How to Reference your Essay.
  • Tense
  • Use the present tense


  • Font
  • Times New Roman, 12pt
  • Spacing
  • Double spaced everywhere
  • No extra spaces
  • Margins
  • 1-inch margins
  • Title / Header
  • Titles should be centered
  • The header includes shortened title of your essay (under 50 characters) to the top left and a page number in the top right
  • References
  • The equivalent of MLA’s works cited but structured differently.
  • Tense
  • Use past tense.

AP Synthesis Essay

This type of assignment is frequently used in the AP English Language and Composition class, which as you have probably noticed, is quite scrupulous. It requires a student to showcase a deeper understanding of the subject matter through analytical reading and writing. Being able to mold language into one’s favor is a critical skill within college application and everything after it.

When writing, try to focus on the main branches of the course: argument, synthesis and rhetorical analysis.

(The following is based on the course rubric)

Argument – Create a claim and find concrete supporting evidence. Attempt to convince the reader that you are right.

Synthesis – This is something we have been over. To synthesize means to collide multiple perspectives and then identify an agreement and a disagreement between sources. When multiple perspectives collide, your own begins to form.

Rhetorical Analysis – This is based mostly on the author and his intentions. To apply this method means to ask questions that investigate the author’s motive: Purpose, intended audience, audience appeal, and structure.

Synthesis Essay Rubric

The rubric will apply to the example of minimum wage mentioned prior.

9. Exceptional

A 9 is tough to achieve because it fits all of the criteria that an eight would, but advances in the level of sophistication of presenting a compelling argument or exceptionally good language usage.

8. Effective

Essays earning a score of 8 effectively take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim, for example, that of minimum wage decreasing the competitiveness of the job market. They support their position by effectively synthesizing and by employing all of their sources (at least three). The writer’s argument is convincing, and the cited sources effectively support the writer’s position. The written piece showcases an ability to control a wide range of the elements of effective writing.


Essays earning a score of 7 fit the description of essays that are scored a six but are distinguished by more complete or more purposeful argumentation and synthesis of cited sources, or a more mature approach to the style of the prose.

6. Sufficient

Essays earning a score of 6 adequately take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that minimum wage decreases the competitiveness of the job market. They adequately synthesize and cite at least three of the sources. The writer’s argument is convincing, and the cited sources support the writer’s position, but the argument is less developed or just does not hold up to the level of the arguments of essays earning higher scores. The style of writing is clear but may lack in its diction or syntax.


Essays earning a score of 5 take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that minimum wage decreases the competitiveness of the job market. They support their position by synthesizing and citing at least three sources, but the downside is that the use of cited sources is limited, inconsistent, or represented in an unclear manner. The writer’s argument is clear, and the sources support the writer’s position, but the established relationship between the sources and the argument is not somewhat fragile. The writing may lack on the front of diction or syntax, but it adequately conveys their idea and stance.

4. Weak

Essays earning a score of 4 do not tolerably take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that minimum wage decreases the competitiveness of the job market. They attempt to present an argument and support their position by synthesizing and citing at least two sources but in the process may misunderstand, misrepresent, or oversimplify either their argument or the cited sources that they include. The connection between the case and the used (and cited) sources is weak.


Essays earning a score of 3 meet the criteria for that of a four but show a lower level of understanding of the cited sources, less success in developing and expanding their position, or less control of writing.

2. Unsuccessful

Essays earning a score of 2 demonstrate a limited ability in taking a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that minimum wage decreases the competitiveness of the job market. They may simply allude to the knowledge that was extracted from the sources rather than citing the sources themselves. The work shows that the writer misreads the sources, fails to present an argument, or substitutes a rooted formulation of an argument for a very obvious or straightforward answer and summary of the sources. The prose of essays scored a two often demonstrates consistent weaknesses in writing, such as a lack of development or organization, significant grammatical issues, or a lack of control over the applied elements.


Those earning a score of 1 meet the criteria for the score of two but are notably simplistic or weak in their control of writing or do not use or cite a single source.

Source: AP English Language and Composition Sample Scoring Guidelines for the Synthesis Essay

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