How to Write a Synthesis Essay | Studyfy

How to Write a Synthesis Essay

Writing a synthesis essay isnt as terrifying as most people think it is. It may seem daunting because..
Kelly Spancer
min read
Feb 8, 2023

it requires researching several sources to come up with your idea, but it isnt very different than a research essay or other academic writing assignments that students will be familiar with. This article will guide you through all the elements of a synthesis essay, including the various types, formats, citation styles, outlines, topics, guides, and tips.

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What is a Synthesis Essay?

At its core, a synthesis essay asks the writer to analyze several sources and come up with their own opinion on a subject. Think of it as creating your thesis statement based on the information you have collected from several places. Its actually not unlike any other essay. Synthesis means combining elements of separate materials or abstract entities into a single or unified entity, and thats what a synthesis essay does.

Types of Synthesis Essay

There are three main types of synthesis essays:

A Review Essay

A review essay collects available information about a topic to suggest what further research needs to be done. It focuses on analyzing available sources rather than making a point of its own.

An Argument Essay

These types of essays use multiple sources to back up a claim or argument. Like a typical argumentative essay, the goal is to convince the reader that your viewpoint on an issue is correct providing evidence from research.

An Explanatory Essay

The goal of this type of essay is to present information about a specific topic from various perspectives. Do not make an argument, just explain the topic with every point of information backed by research.

Synthesis Essay Structure

A synthesis essay follows the traditional structure of a 5 paragraph essay but with a few modifications. An outline is always helpful to plan any form of writing, but it is especially useful when writing this type of essay because of the many sources and various arguments to keep track of. An outline helps plan an essay and ensures that all the major points are covered as well as helps develop a flow to the paper.

The basic synthesis essay structure follows the 5 paragraph essay format.

Introduction - Briefly describe what the paper will be about. Start with a hook to engage the reader from the very beginning, followed by a brief description, and make sure to include your thesis statement.

Body Paragraphs - The first body paragraph typically contains a counterargument to your thesis. Comprehensive research and proper analysis of a subject requires understanding the issue from the opposing viewpoint as well. By presenting the most popular counterargument and debunking it, you make your overall case stronger. The next body paragraphs should present information supporting your thesis.

Conclusion - The conclusion wraps up your paper by summarizing the main points and stating how you proved your thesis with facts.

Synthesis Essay Outline

Heres an outline template for you to use. As you do your research and come up with arguments, fill this template with information.


  • Hook
  • Background information
  • The importance of the issue
  • Thesis statement

Body Paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence with a counterargument
  • Evidence for the counterargument
  • Invalidate the counterargument
  • Evidence and facts backing your claim
  • Conclusion
  • Transition to body paragraph 2

Body Paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence supporting your thesis
  • Quote a source
  • Evidence for your claim
  • Analysis of your claim
  • How it connects to and supports your claim
  • One sentence summary
  • Transition to body paragraph 3

Body Paragraph 3

  • Topic sentence supporting your thesis
  • Quote a different source
  • Evidence for your claim
  • Analysis of your claim
  • How it connects to and supports your claim
  • One sentence summary
  • Connect all research backing your claim
  • Transition to the conclusion


  • Summary of the main points made in the essay
  • Restate your thesis
  • Your main argument and the most important evidence
  • One sentence about why our view is important

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How to Write a Synthesis Paper

Now that you know what a synthesis essay is, what the structure should be, and have an outline to fill, lets get to how to write a synthesis essay!

How to Start a Synthesis Essay

The first thing you need to do is come up with an appropriate topic. If youve been given a prompt, make sure to read it carefully and follow all the instructions.

If you have to choose your own topic make sure that the issue you choose has opposing views so that you can find research backing both sides.

Find the sweet spot between a topic thats too broad, which can be difficult to address fully, and a topic thats too marrow, which might not have enough available information.

Explore our lists of possible essay topics to get an idea of what you may want to write about and read some example essays to become familiar with the structure and style.

Once you have a topic in mind, find at least 3 sources and read them thoroughly while taking notes on specific facts to help build your thesis statement.

Writing a Synthesis Essay Thesis

After youve found a topic you find interesting and that complies with the prompt, your research should guide your thesis statement. What does your research say about the topic youve chosen? Your thesis is the main claim you are making in the essay. This doesnt have to mean that you follow what a majority of the research says, just make sure you have enough evidence to back up your perspective as well as evidence to refute the main counter-arguments.

Your thesis statement should be written as a complete sentence, identifying the subject and stating your viewpoint on it. This will be the guiding idea and the main point you will try and prove through the body paragraphs.

Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs are the main text of your essay. This is where you will present your research, support your thesis, and build your case.

The first body paragraph usually describes a major argument against your thesis to show why the argument is wrong, or why your argument is better. There are several different approaches you can take to achieve this.

The straw man technique involves presenting the main counterargument and then destroying it with evidence showing its flaws. It can be a powerful way to strengthen your claim and it shows that you have researched opposing views. End a body paragraph using this technique with a transition sentence that introduces your main statement supporting your thesis.
The concession technique can be thought of as a softer version of the straw man. You present evidence that goes against your thesis and acknowledges that it makes sense, but show that your argument is stronger. This technique is useful for convincing people that hold the opposing view to what you believe. By agreeing with and accepting that the opposing viewpoints have some merits, it put the reader in a less hostile frame of mind.
The comparison and contrast technique presents a nuanced analysis of both sides. This is the most difficult technique because it requires a deep understanding of the issue as well as careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of the argument. When pulled off successfully though, it is incredibly powerful and shows an in-depth understanding of the issue.

The body paragraphs after the first should provide evidence supporting your thesis. These can contain direct quotes from your sources. Your analysis should be clear and flow logically from the research. Towards the end of each paragraph connect the evidence directly to the thesis statement to build a strong case for your claim.


Your conclusion should state all the main points of the essay as well as the main takeaways. Summarize the evidence that backs your claim and reiterate your thesis statement. Make sure to acknowledge the opposing viewpoint and state why your perspective is either correct or stronger.

Synthesis Essay Format

Citation is important for any paper, but especially for one that is research-driven. The three main citation styles are MLA, APA, and Chicago. Each one has its own synthesis essay format and conventions described below.


MLA stands for Modern Language Association and is a citation style used for papers in the Humanities like art, literature, and philology. These are the key formatting rules for MLA:

  • Font should be Times New Roman
  • Font size should be 12
  • The entire paper should be double-spaced
  • Margins should be 1 inch
  • Titles should be centered
  • Include your last name and the page number on each page
  • The header should contain your name, your professors name, the date, and the course code
  • The research page at the end should be titled Works Cited
  • Journal Citation Format: Last, First M. Publication Title. Journal Title Series Volume. Issue (Year Published): Page(s). Database Name. Web. Date Month Year Accessed.
  • Newspaper (Print) Citation Format: Author's Last Name, First Name. "Title of Article: Subtitle if Any." Name of Newspaper, Date of Publication, p. Page Number.
  • Newspaper (Online) Citation Format: Author's Last Name, First Name. "Title of Article: Subtitle if Any." Title of Website, Date of Publication, URL. Accessed Day Month Year site was visited.
  • Website Citation Format: Author's Last Name, First Name. Title of Website, Name of Organization Affiliated with the Website, Date of copyright or date last modified/updated, URL. Accessed Day Month Year site was visited.


APA stands for American Psychological Association and is a citation style used for science, education, and psychology. These are the key formatting rules for APA:

  • Font should be Times New Roman
  • Font size should be 12
  • The entire paper should be double-spaced
  • Margins should be 1 inch
  • Include a Title Page
  • Include an Abstract
  • Include the page number on each page
  • The header should contain the page number and the papers title
  • The research page at the end should be titled References
  • Journal Citation Format: Authors last name, Authors first initial. Authors middle initial. (Year, Month Date Published). Article title. Journal Name, Volume (Issue), page number(s).
  • Newspaper Print Citation Format: Author, A. (Year, Month Date of Publication). Article title. Newspaper Title, pp. Xx-xx.
  • Newspaper Online Citation Format: Author, A. (Year, Month Date of Publication). Article title. Newspaper Title, Retrieved from newspaper homepage URL
  • Website Citation Format: Authors last name, Initial(s). (Year, Month Day of publication). Title of work. Website. https://URL


The Chicago style is used for history, business, and the fine arts. These are the key formatting rules for the Chicago style:

  • Font should be Times New Roman
  • Font size should be 12
  • The space between lines should be double-spaced
  • Margins should be 1 inch
  • Use half-inch indents for the beginning of every paragraph
  • Use the full names of people and organizations
  • The research page at the end should be titled Bibliography
  • There are 2 main ways of citing sources, Author-Dates and Notes-Bibliography
  • Author-Dates uses parenthetical citations in the text referencing the source's author's last name and the year of publication.
  • Notes-Bibliography uses numbered footnotes in the text to direct readers to a short citation at the bottom of the page.
  • Both styles have a full bibliography as well
  • Full source citations are in alphabetical order

Did you like our inspiring Synthesis Essay Guide?

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Synthesis Essay Topics

Here are 30 topics to inspire you. You can think of these as brief synthesis essay thesis examples.

What is the impact of culture on academic success?
How does social media influence feelings of loneliness?
How does human crated sound pollution impact urban wildlife?
What will the impact of self-driving cars be on the trucking industry?
Were superheroes better role models in the past as compared to now?
How can private drones be policed?
Will machine learning ever be able to make human artists obsolete?
Does privatization of infrastructure make sense for developing countries?
What would be the best way to communicate with aliens?
Are there negative aspects of meditation?
What is the biggest potential reason for a potential World War III?
Do tall people make better leaders?
Self-fulfilling prophecies and confirmation bias explain why some predictions come true.
What can we learn from interactions with indigenous tribes?
What are the key steps developed countries must take to manage future pandemics?
How have volcanos shaped the Earths climate?
What is the impact of snow on overall mood?
Is it possible to reduce the wage gap fairly?
Does having pets enhance the quality of life?
Has the rise of visual media killed imagination?
Which societies in the past have been matriarchal?
How can video games help those with mental disorders?
Which is the worst seven deadly sin?
Why Anime is better than western animation
Is honor beneficial or detrimental in sports?
What are the problems with social Darwinism?
Can anyone become a model now?
What does it take to be considered an expert?
Where is the line between advertising and manipulation?
Is there an objective idea of ethical behavior?

Some Tips!

Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing your essay.

What To Do

  • Write in the third person
  • Make sure your research comes from credible sources
  • Cite every fact
  • Write multiple drafts of your essay
  • Spend time editing and proofreading
  • Organize your arguments clearly
  • Think about your audience
  • Use technical terms
  • Use paragraph transitions
  • Use a synthesis essay outline template
  • Use present tense for MLA
  • Use past tense for APA

What Not To Do

  • Use informal language
  • Rely only on opinion
  • Use the passive voice
  • Stick to the outline template exactly
  • Use fewer than three sources
  • Use more than five sources
  • Submit the first draft

Wrap Up

A synthesis essay might be more technical than the types of writing youre used to, but dont stress too much. If you think about it as any other essay, but just a little more research-intensive, itll be easy to write. Choose a topic that you are interested in to make the research more fun. If you know about the topic, it will guide your research and make the writing flow more smoothly as well. Citations may seem daunting, but using a citation generator will make it a cinch!

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