Whether you’re taking the AP Lang exam or doing your schoolwork, a synthesis essay can be a difficult concept to understand.
Like an argumentative essay, a synthesis essay uses arguments from various resources to support the thesis statement; and discusses the links between your resources.
Once you understand the idea, it turns out that a synthesis essay is not that hard to write at all.
However, you need to build a strong synthesis essay outline to be able to cover every point in a cohesive, comprehensive manner. So, read on to find out what a good synthesis outline looks like.
Why Make an Outline at All?
This rule applies to blogging, book writing, essays, poems, technical writing, and so much more: No matter what kind of writing you do, outlining always comes first.
If you skip this step and try writing right out of your head, chances are you will end up with an incomprehensive, messy product.
That is usually a bad thing unless you’re trying to capture your stream of consciousness. Creating an outline is simply essential, especially if you need to stick to a strict format like school or test essays often have.
Often written as a part of the AP Lang exam, synthesis essays require good planning to make sense.
A synthesis essay outline lets you write without worrying if your essay has a logical flow or forgot to make some crucial points.
The Key Parts of a Synthesis Essay
No matter how long the text is, a synthesis essay can always be divided into three key parts.
- First up, there’s an introduction that includes a thesis statement and a little something to get the reader hooked.
- Then, we need a few body paragraphs that feature the details of your research and arguments.
- A conclusion is there to round everything up in a concise wrap-up.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
If you want your reader to get interested in what you have to say, you need to grab their attention from the get-go.
This is best done at the very beginning, with a statement that can get them hooked.
Since this is an academic essay, you also need to include your thesis statement in the introduction and briefly touch upon the main points you’ll elaborate on later on.
Even though it may seem counterintuitive, it’s good practice to write your introduction later on, after you’ve completed the body paragraphs.
Once you’ve written down the main points of your paper, you will have a better understanding of the topic and what direction your essay takes, which makes it much easier to appropriately introduce the topic.
Besides, your introduction won’t limit the direction your paper goes, either.
In fact, I even do this for blog posts – it makes it easier to pinpoint the tangible value that my article brings to the readers.
Body paragraphs are where you make your points.
They are the body and the soul of your essay. In essence, body paragraphs are there to elaborate and prove your thesis statement in the introduction.
It will include all of the supporting evidence you gathered from your resources and your analysis of the research.
In many cases, a synthesis essay contains 3 body paragraphs, each of which discusses a particular resource and/or point. Sometimes, synthesis essays contain many more paragraphs.
A synthesis essay conclusion is, in many cases, a summary of the presented evidence and the main points you covered in the body.
It also needs to wrap up the evidence and refer it back to the original thesis statement.
Sample Synthesis Essay Outline Template
A synthesis essay follows a similar structure to many other types of academic writing.
However, the difference is in the way you present, analyze, discuss, and connect evidence in support of your thesis statement.
Here’s what a good, argumentative synthesis essay outline looks like:
- Introduction – contains the hook and your thesis statement, with some main points mentioned to add meat
- Body paragraphs – typically there are three or more body paragraphs, but they all follow a similar structure. Each deal with a single resource or a particular discussion point presents supporting evidence and analyzes the resource. When using evidence, it’s important to relate it to the main thesis and other presented evidence.
- Conclusion – A short conclusion is there to reiterate the main arguments used in the essay, and to remind the reader of the purpose of the essay, or in other words, to repeat the thesis statement.
Gather (and Understand) Your Resources
At its core, a synthesis essay is not much different than any other academic essay. It’s the approach to resources that makes a difference.
You can organize your research and include it in your body paragraphs using two different approaches – point by point, or source by source.
If you choose to organize your outline based on individual points that appear across resources, it’s important to discuss each point individually, mentioning two or more resources that support your argument.
If you opt for the source by source approach, devote a paragraph to analyzing and discussing the points found in each paper you chose to present.
In general, organizing your information by point will give you more freedom to discuss ideas and compare the opinions of different authors, so this is the preferred method for most students.
The point of writing a synthesis essay is to take information from several resources and join it (synthesize it) into one cohesive essay.
In general, the different sources will probably have different points of view, or not even approach the subject from a similar perspective at all.
So it’s your job, as an essayist, to locate and gather the key statements that could help support your argument from all of these different resources.
Formatting Done Right
At last, make sure you follow the right formatting and style requirements, especially when it comes to citations. Most synthesis essays require the APA citation style, but some also accept MLA and Chicago style guides. What’s the topic of your synthesis essay?
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