Mary Ellen Haley
Center for Academic Development
What is “synthesis”?
• “Synthesis” is the combining of separate
elements or substances to form a
coherent whole.
What is a synthesis essay?
• A synthesis essay brings together your
own ideas with the ideas of other writers,
your sources.
Process of synthesis writing:
• Through research, assemble ideas from
various sources (books, journals, Internet)
• Develop your own original idea, or thesis,
based on these sources
Step One: Before Writing
• Collect your sources on the topic
• Familiarize yourself with what others have
written about the topic
Write a brief summary of each of your sources
Examine the evidence that other writers have
used to support or to argue against the issue
Formulate your own thesis, after reflecting on
your research
Step Two: Pre-Write
• Using your thesis as a starting point, freewrite,
brainstorm, question or map out ideas on the
Using the pre-writing material you generate,
create a scratch outline
Note: It is ALWAYS wise to create a short
scratch outline for your essays. However, for
synthesis essays, this step is essential if you are
to clearly and logically organize your multiple
Sample scratch outline for a
synthesis essay
• Thesis: The two memoirs, All Over but the Shoutin’ by
Rick Bragg and The Color of Water by James McBride,
share the theme that, with familial support and love, we
can overcome obstacles
Supporting Point 1: In All Over but the Shoutin’, Rick
Bragg’s mother teaches him to persevere in difficult
Supporting Point 2 (with transition): Like Bragg, in The
Color of Water, James McBride’s strong mother instills in
him the importance of education as a path out of
Step Three: Write
• For each of your supporting points, write a complete
sentence; use these as the topic sentences for all of your
body paragraphs
Using the topic sentences and your scratch outline, write
the essay
Using the summaries you wrote for each of your sources
(see Step One), add these quotations, facts and opinions
to prove each of your key points
HINT: DO NOT include lengthy summaries of your
sources in your essay but very brief summaries that
support your thesis directly and clearly
Step Four: Revise
• Be sure that your thesis covers all the supporting points
• Be sure that you have introduced all of your sources in the
introductory paragraph
Check that each body paragraph begins with a clear topic sentence
to focus the main idea
Make sure that all of your evidence supports your thesis clearly; edit
out any facts, quotes or ideas that do not (or move them to
paragraphs where they logically belong)
Add quotations, facts or opinions of your sources where you are
lacking adequate evidence
Be sure that you have introduced the writer of all quotations by
putting the name of the writer in your text, right before the quote
(According to Smith,”XXXXX”)
Step Five: Edit
• Add, delete or move ideas as needed
• Proofread for grammar, mechanics,
punctuation, word choice or typographical
Sample outline for a synthesis
A synthesis essay should be organized so that others can understand the sources and evaluate your
comprehension of them and their presentation of specific data, themes, etc.
• The introduction (first paragraph)
1. Thesis sentence that sums up the focus of your synthesis.
2. Also introduces the texts to be synthesized:
(i) Gives the title of each source (following the citation guidelines of whatever style
sheet you are using);
(ii) Provides the name of each author;
(ii) Sometimes also provides pertinent background information about the authors,
about the texts to be summarized, or about the general topic from which the
texts are drawn.
• The body of a synthesis essay:
Each paragraph should:
Start with a topic sentence;
Include information from more than one source;
Indicate the names of your sources;
• Conclusion.
Write a concluding paragraph that restates your thesis in different words and summarizes
themes you have found and the ways they connect to the overall topic.
Adapted from Drew On-line Resources for Writers
Works Cited Page
• Include a Works Cited page at the end
of the essay, essentially a list of your
• See below for an example of a good
Works Cited page, using MLA style
Group Exercise
Step 1
Read the two Aesop’s Fables:
• The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
A Wolf found great difficulty in getting at the sheep owing to
the vigilance of the shepherd and his dogs. But one day it found
the skin of a sheep that had been flayed and thrown aside, so it
put it on over its own pelt and strolled down among the sheep.
The Lamb that belonged to the sheep, whose skin the Wolf was
wearing, began to follow the Wolf in the Sheep's clothing; so,
leading the Lamb a little apart, he soon made a meal off her, and
for some time he succeeded in deceiving the sheep, and enjoying
hearty meals.
Part 1:
The Ant and the Chrysalis
An Ant nimbly running about in the sunshine in search of food came
across a Chrysalis that was very near its time of change. The
Chrysalis moved its tail, and thus attracted the attention of the Ant,
who then saw for the first time that it was alive. "Poor, pitiable
animal!" cried the Ant disdainfully. "What a sad fate is yours!
While I can run hither and thither, at my pleasure, and, if I wish,
ascend the tallest tree, you lie imprisoned here in your shell, with
power only to move a joint or two of your scaly tail." The Chrysalis
heard all this, but did not try to make any reply. A few days after,
when the Ant passed that way again, nothing but the shell remained.
Wondering what had become of its contents, he felt himself suddenly
shaded and fanned by the gorgeous wings of a beautiful Butterfly.
"Behold in me," said the Butterfly, "your much-pitied friend! Boast
now of your powers to run and climb as long as you can get me to
listen." So saying, the Butterfly rose in the air, and, borne along
and aloft on the summer breeze, was soon lost to the sight of the
Ant forever.
Part 2: In groups• Write very brief summaries of each fable
(be as concise as humanly possible
without leaving out any important facts)
• Write one sentence to connect your two
summaries (this is your synthesis thesis
• Write a short scratch outline for this
synthesis essay (see the sample)

THE SYNTHESIS ESSAY - Bloomfield College