Shmoop Writing Guide

Type: Synthesis
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Type: Synthesis

What's the Point?: Here's a quick look at what synthesis essays try to accomplish.

Synthesis writing is about taking different elements and artfully combining them to create a well-balanced explanation or argument. It’s the sweet/savory kind of essay; synthesizing takes two or more sources and uses them as evidence to support your main point. If you’ve ever put together a blended-soda kamikaze at 7-Eleven, or created a salt-pepper-ketchup-Sweet'N Low concoction while you’re waiting for the bill in a restaurant booth (excuse us for a second… we have a weak gag reflex), you know that not every combination is a delicacy. The right mix of ingredients takes finesse—both in the kitchen and on the page.

Sample Prompts: Below are a few typical synthesis essay prompts. Do any of them look at all like what you're working on?

  • Compare and contrast the risks and benefits of social networking sites. Evaluate their financial, social, and psychological effects on individuals by examining at least two differing sources. If you can’t tweet ‘em, join ‘em.
  • Which system of democratic government is most capable of maintaining peaceful relations with other nations—parliamentary or presidential? Compare at least two nations by considering their recent history of conflict, diplomacy, regional contexts, and unnecessary name-calling.
  • Explore the differences between public and private education. Do they offer the same options, provide the same quality, and have similar or very different measurable results? You might try to find quantifiable information to compare like standardized test scores or graduation rates. Glowing compliments from proud mothers would not, by the way, come under the category of quantifiable.

Key Words: If one of these words has been used a lot in the essay assignment or your class discussion, you might be working on a synthesis essay.

  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Side-by-side
  • Similar
  • Different
  • Connect
  • Combine