Filtering and arranging information in an essential skill for any student and scholar as it demonstrates critical evaluation of data and a deep understanding of the researched topic. However, writing a synthesis essay in a consistent manner may be challenging even for those having good reading and critical thinking skills. This article is designed to provide some useful recommendations on how this type of academic papers should be written and outlines common mistakes to avoid when structuring synthesis essays.
Synthesis is the reflection on the themes that observed in the selected literature (articles, books, lectures, reports, etc.). It is a meaningful process, during which you carefully read your sources to determine their relationships, limitations, gaps, and so on to build your own attitude to the problem based on obtained data. It is important to remember that instead of merely trying to find some sort of similarity or difference between papers, synthesizing requires organizing material in a harmonious and structured way.
Although it may seem too difficult, synthesis is actually a part of everyday life because people constantly engage in integrating and evaluating knowledge. You do it every day when you analyze information from newspapers and TV programs, select a movie by reading someone’s reviews, or simply discuss a new music album with friends. Based on synthesized data from different scholarly papers, you can make your own judgment and form your attitudes to things, which is a crucial ability for any individual.
Definition and Main Characteristics of a Synthesis Essay
Synthesis essay is the analysis and evaluation of original papers and reflection on them in an elaborated, sophisticated manner. A synthesis essay is designed to discuss various points of view and different kinds of evidence concerning a particular problem. Such writing always involves comparison and contrast of perspectives, which means that you need to study all sources thoroughly.
Key features of a synthesis essay include:
- Accurate arrangement of material from the literature using original expressions and words without plagiarism
- Clear organization that allows readers to see the central idea and supporting argument
- Comprehensive analysis of the original papers investigating the issue under discussion
You should distinguish a synthesis essay from other types of papers. Unlike summaries, a synthesis essay includes author’s reflection on the issue and a critical appraisal of different perspectives found in the literature. Synthesis essays differ from argumentative papers in which an author is expected to draw on personal experience rather than use outside material.
How to Structure a Synthesis Essay
A synthesis essay is typically organized in the following way:
- Introduction. This is an essential element of a synthesis essay that introduces the argument and gives any needed terms and context.
- Introductory paragraph always ends with a thesis statement, which determines the theme and the main idea of the paper. It is important to think thoroughly on your thesis statement because it will affect the selection of scholarly papers and their subsequent analysis.
- The body of an essay. Each new paragraph in the main part of the paper should begin with a topic sentence, which is then supported with relevant information from different scholarly papers. Make sure that all paragraphs are logically connected and that you do not jump from one idea to another. Including lead-in phrases and transitions will help your essay move from point to point harmoniously and look well-thought-out.
In each paragraph, you should clearly indicate other scholars’ ideas with the help of in-text citations. Make sure readers understand which evidence comes from original papers and which is your own comments and integration of ideas. Unintentional plagiarism may occur when authors synthesize material and fail to show where scholars’ ideas end and their own reflection begins.
- Conclusion. This part should include all major points recurrent in the analyzed literature and summarize the argument provided above. You may also restate your thesis statement in different words. Conclusion may end with the acknowledgment of limitations or recommendations for future research. An interesting final statement is also a useful approach to make your paper look completed.
Conclusion should not include any new data that was not mentioned in the body of the paper.
Remember – the main focus of the study should be asserted in the introduction and confirmed in the conclusion.
- References. Because your synthesis paper includes many original sources, you should provide a reference list with all mentioned books, articles, reports, lectures, and so on. Format references according to the required style (APA, MLA, Harvard, etc.). Make sure you use reliable and current papers and avoid drawing knowledge from websites.
Useful Tips on Writing a Comprehensive Synthesis Essay
There are several tips you can use to write a consistent, plagiarism-free synthesis essay:
- One of the primary requirements for any academic paper including a synthesis essay is the use of original material. All information taken from books, articles, websites, reports, and other sources should be cited properly to avoid plagiarism. The majority of formatting styles require citing the author’s last name and the date of publication in parenthesis. When direct quotes are used, the page number should also be included. All sources cited throughout the synthesis essay should be included in the reference list, where the full author’s name, title of the work, page numbers, location of publication, and publisher are provided. Do not forget that different formatting and style guides may have different requirements. Reference list enables readers to locate and retrieve any source that is mentioned in your paper.
- Plagiarism is unacceptable in research and the academic environment, so be sure not to use someone’s ideas without paraphrasing and citing them meticulously. Direct quotes should always be put in quotation marks and cited to inform the reader about the source of the data. Paraphrasing and integrating material is considered the most acceptable and ethical way to write a scholarly paper. Briefly speaking, paraphrase is the presentation of ideas expressed by someone else in different words. In order to paraphrase the data effectively, you should understand its meaning and reflect on it thoroughly before writing it down in different words. Try to use notes when you read, as it may help you organize collected knowledge in a logical and consistent way.
Remember that plagiarism leads to destroyed student and academic reputation and can even result in suspension or expel. Educational institutions have strict policies concerning plagiarism and often introduce penalties to eliminate this unethical behavior. If you want your paper be professional and legal, make sure you quote and paraphrase data accurately.
- Do not simply summarize materials. A synthesis essay is not a summary of everything you have read about the issue but your personal attitude of the problem based on the analysis of relevant literature. Besides, a summary of sources often lacks comprehensiveness and a clear structure that supervisors look for.
- Be original. It is not enough to present the popular view on the problem. You should not only look at it from different angles but also try to offer a unique understanding of the issue. This would not only make your synthesis essay engaging but demonstrate your critical thinking and professional skills.
- Avoid equivocation. After offering in-depth analysis of the problem, you should take a side and explain your position in detail. Voice major concerns and reservations and acknowledge limitations. Comparison and contrast of different perspectives is crucial in a synthesis essay, but simply stating that all viewpoints are equal is not enough.
- Work with original papers. You do not necessarily have to agree with all authors cited in the work. On the contrary, including ideas that contradict your position contributes to the unbiased and well-rounded argument. Do not let your sources to control or affect the paper’s structure. They should work for you, not control you.
- Meticulously re-read and check the paper before submitting. Pay attention to grammar, style, and structure, as well as in-text citations and formatting. The most common errors are in plural and possessive forms, subject-predicate agreement, and tenses. Avoid using passive voice and long, ambiguous sentences.
Common Mistakes to Avoid:
- Avoid presenting your study as a series of summaries. Although summaries are much easier to write, they do not show author’s thoughts and attitudes to the problem and do not require personal contribution. You are expected to digest and rearrange the information provided in different sources to be able to write a quality academic paper.
- Avoid presenting too many facts and examples. It is a common misconception that factual information adds value and objectivity to the essay paper because it is often redundant and prevents the reader from understanding the main point. Therefore, use facts and examples reasonably and always complement them with you own interpretation and reflection.
- Duplication is another thing to avoid in a synthesis essay. It shows that you either failed to work with sources and thoughts thoroughly or simply want to make it to the required page count.
- Do not begin paragraphs with quotes. Try to make your own point first and then support it with material from the literature. Topic sentences should demonstrate your ability to synthesize knowledge in an original and creative way, so think them over beforehand.