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|
Alexa Rain 3 months agofrom egypt
A lot of inspired topics and issues,
you always help in finding ways by arrange your reader thinking and informative things.
i am big fan of you.
Virginia Kearney 4 months agofrom United States
Hi Christina--My articles on how to write can help you! Find them by looking to the side or on my profile page. Or just use Google and type what you need with my name.
Christinaaa 4 months ago
I'm trying to write an argument research paper on social media and mental illness or social media and relationships but I'm having trouble narrowing my topic and creating the key points for my paper.
Virginia Kearney 5 months agofrom United States
Hi Rosie--You have a good topic and an interesting personal connection. I'd suggest that you do a frame story introduction and conclusion. Start with your situation and then stop part-way through and ask the question: should you call CPS? Then do your answer and tell why or why not. Finish with telling the end of your story. See my articles on "How to write an argument paper" and "How to write a position paper" for full instructions.
rosie 5 months ago
Wondering how to write a position essay. Topic should you call Child Protective Services. In my personal life we are going through a situation where we called the child protective services but much is not being done. Was thinking if I choose this topic I could write some of our family's frustration about the situation, don't know how to go about writing this essay
Virginia Kearney 6 months agofrom United States
Khen--You can find help if you look for my articles about how to write different kinds of position or argument papers. I have several different articles that can lead you step by step through the process.
Khen 6 months ago
Can you please help me in my position paper?
Virginia Kearney 7 months agofrom United States
Roami, You have an interesting idea. I think one way for you to get some good information to start your paper is to research why local languages are not included in the instruction first. Next, you might want to interview some people to find out their positions and to get some quotes on this topic. Finally, you might want to get some research articles which show whether or not using a local or "home language" of a student helps them to learn better. In the United States, research has shown that students who receive some instruction in their own language at least at first often do better in the long run than a child who is "fully immersed" in English. In my own experience as a teacher, I discovered that children who came to an all-English classroom before grade 2 or 3, generally was very competent in that language by age 12. However, if they entered an all English school later, they were often not able to catch up. However, that only works if the child is in a school where no one else speaks their native language (as is often true in the U.S. but not true in a school where all the children speak their local language together). You have a wonderful topic and one that is very important for your country to consider. I wish you great success in your paper.
roami 7 months ago
pls, i need u to look into this position topic for me. Should local languages be made as compulsory as religious languages in schools
Virginia Kearney 9 months agofrom United States
Hi Sam, you might want to try my article about Funny Argumentative Essay Topic Ideas, or else do the negative of any idea here or in one of my many other argument essays. In a "devil's advocate" paper, you want to go against what most people think. Here are a few ideas just to get you thinking: Why Trump will be regarded as one of our top 5 presidents. Why we should leave ISIS alone. Why race is less a problem in America than Europe. Why the leader of North Korea isn't really crazy.
Sam 9 months ago
I have this assignment of playing the role of devil's advocate and I can't think of a good topic!
( I personally prefer a political related topic).
Virginia Kearney 12 months agofrom United States
Aidyn-You add a very interesting position topic. I had not thought about schools making rules against fasting but it certainly could hurt a child's performance in school if they were fasting for a longer period than a day or two. That could cause a school to be concerned. Thanks for your comment and idea.
Aidyn Krikorian 12 months ago
I greatly appreciate your website, and I have a suggestion for a topic. "Should we allow fasting or other religious acts in schools?" This topic facsinates me and I do hope you will consider it. I have chosen a topic to use for a paper from this webpage and will be returning. Thank you, Aidyn.
Virginia Kearney 12 months agofrom United States
Rose--You did not mention what aspect of culture you are writing about which makes it hard to help you. However, for example, if you are writing a paper arguing to people that only like modern music that classical music is worth listening to, you could start by talking about what you agree with about modern music and acknowledge why people of your generation might prefer to listen to it. Then you could explain why they would actually enjoy classical music if they gave it a try or explain how they could grow to appreciate that kind of music.
rose lasu 12 months ago
I need help on my regerian Argument eassy on culture. I dont now how to start it, Does anyone knows how.thanks
Preston Heard 14 months ago
These are great topics for the upcoming research essays. I will definitely be using one of them. Thank you for this resource!
Aaron Gibson 14 months ago
Excited for your class this semester!
Matt Hartman 14 months ago
This article along with many of the other articles you have written will be very helpful this semester! I'm looking forward to your class!
Virginia Kearney 16 months agofrom United States
Look for my articles about how to write argument or position essays for lots of ideas on how to introduce essays and find sources. Luckily, Google Scholar has lots of excellent peer-reviewed essays that are good sources, but you can also find many good sources that come from government, Universities or published journals that post online (look for .gov, .edu or a journal that also appears in print). One easy way to start your introduction is to tell a story about a student who is generally shy (or maybe bullied) but gets excited (and more included by others) when they are able to share about their own culture during a multiculturalism unit.
jenn 16 months ago
I am doing an Apa essay on "should schools be required to teach multiculturalism" any idea on how I should start my intro and what sources I should use?
Virginia Kearney 17 months agofrom United States
Bebe--You don't tell me whether your paper is a research paper or not, but I've written many articles on how to write different sorts of essays. You can use the search engine on HubPages to find them, or look at the links that usually appear when you pull up one of my articles. Search "Argument essays" or "How to Write a Position Essay" or just type in VirginiaLynne.
To start a paper on your topic, I think I would use a story in the introduction showing a miscommunication when people don't talk face to face.
bebe 17 months ago
Hey . Can you please help me in my position paper . I dont how to start . My topic is cellphone,texts and emails are not as good as talking face to face . It is from yours sample :) thank you
B-RAD 24 months ago
I think that is video gaming good or bad is a great topic to choose.
Virginia Kearney 2 years agofrom United States
Yes Alsaifl, I think that "What is beauty?" could be a topic. You are right that your answer would be a definition claim.
Jumanah Alsaif 2 years ago
Is the topics What is true beauty? (definition) a good topic for a position paper? I was thinking of writing how the definition of beauty is different for each individual
Brittany Adams 14 2 years ago
Thank you so much for posting! This helps a lot with my writing!
Tariq Ali Khan 2 years ago
Excellent work buddy! Thank you so much !
Kristen Howe 2 years agofrom Northeast Ohio
Great topics for a variety of essays for everyone who needs to be inspired. Voted up for useful!
Joanna 3 years ago
That Tom Hanks video is hilarious. These ideas are very thought-provoking and inspiring!
Virginia Kearney 3 years agofrom United States
Cindy A. So glad I was able to give you some good information!
Cindy A. 3 years ago
Unbelievable. You have helped me enormously. Thank you so much
Bluerider 3 years ago
Thank you for these great topics.
VJG 3 years agofrom Texas
This would be an interesting article for school students. They always seem to struggle for essay ideas.
Virginia Kearney 3 years agofrom United States
Hi Safa--Here are the main steps:
1. Choose a question you are going to write about. Then think about what your answer to the question is going to be.
2. Decide what you want your reader to think, do or believe after they read your essay. That is your thesis (the answer to your question).
3. Decide who you want to persuade to believe this (that is your reader or audience). Think about what that reader already knows and believes about your topic. That will help you develop your arguments. The reader should not be someone who already believes what you do. If they do, you aren't really arguing are you?
4. Think of at least 3 reasons why your reader should believe your thesis. Those reasons will be the main body part of your essay.
5. Think of examples or evidence which supports each of those reasons. That is what you will use to support those three reasons.
6. What objections will your reader have? Write those out and also your answers to those objections. This will be a paragraph after your reasons.
7. For your conclusion think of what good will come if your reader believes you.
I've written more in detail about this in my article: https://owlcation.com/academia/How-to-Write-an-Arg...
Virginia Kearney 4 years agofrom United States
Hi katha- if you look at the bottom right blue box I have the links to sample essays. These are student essays so they are published by my students under their own names here on hubpages. Maybe I should move these up on the page so you can find them more easily.
Virginia Kearney 4 years agofrom United States
Samarah--Yes I think that vaccinating children is a very good topic. You can also narrow that to particular types of vaccinations that are new like the chickenpox vaccine or the HPV. Another possible argument on this topic is whether or not it is true that vaccines are the main reason for better health in people today than in the past.
samarah15 4 years ago
Is the right to vaccinate children a good topic?
Virginia Kearney 4 years agofrom United States
I think you can do something related to obesity or how different types of food are good or bad for your health. Or you can talk about GMO foods or organic or locally grown produce.
Virginia Kearney 5 years agofrom United States
Xstatic--I love the fact that you do have a position on everything--I like to look at all sides of things and that is great as an instructor teaching positions, because I can play the devils advocate, but sometimes I do need to just nail down my own point of view!
Jim Higgins 5 years agofrom Eugene, Oregon
A great "how to" for position papers. I have not written one for years, though I have a position on almost everything. Useful Hub and well done as usual.