Shmoop Writing Guide

Synthesis Essay: Five Key Strategies
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Synthesis Essay: Five Key Strategies

Curious about how to actually do well on a synthesis essay? Look no further. Well, okay… look a little further. A bit more… you’re almost there…

1 Organize It Subject-by-Subject: In this essay strategy, set up all your facts about Topic A, and then all your facts about Topic B. For that third body paragraph, sum up their similarities and differences. Keep this strategy in mind for shorter papers especially.

2 Or, Organize It Point-by-Point: Here's another way to organize a synthesis essay—in each body paragraph, share one point about Topic A and one point about Topic B, and then explain how they relate to one another, and maybe mention how often they bump into each other at the yearly family reunion. You’re bringing your subjects together in every paragraph rather than only in the third body paragraph. Make sure your points are in balance; that is, discuss the same elements for each topic. This strategy is a great one for longer papers.

3 The Side-by-Side Synthesis: Some assignments will ask you to synthesize two subjects but will not ask you to pick a side. Good practice for a career in TV journalism, unless you someday work for either Fox or MSNBC. In side-by-side syntheses, explain distinct similarities and differences without adopting a persuasive position. The adoption process is a total hassle anyway.

4 The Evaluation Synthesis: There are many opinionated people in the world, and you might be one of them. If so, you will be a natural with the evaluative synthesis, where the writer takes on two subjects, considers both their positive and negative aspects, but decides which subject’s positive aspects outweighs the other’s. However, keep in mind that “because I said so” isn’t going to sway many readers.

5 Compare OR Contrast: While some essays might ask you to compare and contrast, many will require you to zero in on similarities or differences. Which should you choose? You are faced with a decision that would give Rebecca Black fits. Sometimes choosing the most counterintuitive option is best. If two things are very obviously similar in most ways, you might focus on contrast in order to create an interesting, provocative essay. Imagine an essay synthesizing cake and pie—the similarities are obvious and a little boring. (As if cake and pie could ever be boring.) They both are baked, circle-shaped deserts typically cut into slices. But what if you explored in depth the differences between the two and the very particular pleasures each brings? That essay would be worth reading. Write a Synthesis Essay Now