Step-By-Step Guide to Writing a Synthesis Essay

A synthesis essay requires you to analyze information and to present it in an organized way. Although you develop such skills in high school and college, they are also necessary for those who work in business or advertising. Check out this guide from to learn more about synthesis essays.

Examine Your Topic

1. Understand the purpose of a synthesis essay

Such essays are aimed to connect different parts of a work or several works to present a supporting claim related to the topic. While researching a topic, you need to find these connections to provide a proper perspective. Here are the most common types of synthesis essays:

  • An argument synthesis must have a strong thesis statement presenting your point of view. You need to organize information logically to support your opinion. White papers, which are popular in business, are also often written this way. You will also write this type of synthesis essay when taking the AP test.
  • A review is often written before an argument synthesis. A review is aimed to provide a brief summary of the previous discussion on the topic, analyzing the sources. A review should demonstrate that a certain area requires more research or that the topic wasn’t fully covered before. Such papers are common in medicine and social science.
  • A background/explanatory synthesis essay helps readers understand some topic. It categorizes facts and doesn’t support any particular point of view. Therefore, such essays usually don’t have a thesis statement or have a weak one. This type is also common in business.

2. Choose the right topic

On one hand, your topic should be broad so that you can use multiple sources. On the other hand, you don’t need it to be too broad because you don’t want these sources to be from too different areas. For example, social media is a too broad topic. However, you can make it more specific if you write about the impact of social media on people’s relationships. If you have an opportunity to choose a topic yourself, reading can help you. However, when preparing an essay for a class, you may also choose from among several available topics. If you need an essay for a class, we also recommend that you read your prompt carefully.

3. Read your sources

When taking the AP test, you may be given a set of selected sources. In turn, you will have to select a few of them (at least three). If you have enough time to study your sources, you can pick more. While reading, look for information that is related to your argument and corresponds to the purpose of your essay. Keep in mind that it’s better to provide a good analysis of three sources than to fail with six sources. Make your notes to remember useful ideas and facts.

4. Write your thesis statement

Once you have done research, you can formulate your own opinion on the topic. Your thesis should present this opinion and serve as the main idea of your essay. It must be a complete sentence. You may put your thesis statement at the beginning of an essay or at the end, depending on the type of your task.

5. Read your sources again to find information that can support your thesis

Look for statistics, facts, and quotes that support your opinion and write them down. You can also look for information that supports the opposite opinion so that you can address it properly. This approach is called a rebuttal, refutation, or concession. It will be easier for you to demonstrate the weaknesses of the opposite point if you support your claims with evidence.


First outline the overall structure of your thesis. You need to find the most effective way to present your material. When writing an essay for the AP test, keep in mind though that the graders will appreciate a certain structure. Here is what it looks like:

  • The first part of the essay should be an introduction. Start it with a hook that will capture your reader’s attention. After this, introduce the issue that you’re going to consider, followed by the thesis statement.
  • The main body of your essay might have several paragraphs with the same structure. Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that supports your thesis. After this, provide your opinion and explanation. Provide sources that back up your argument, and explain the significance of these sources.
  • The last part of your essay is a conclusion. It must explain the significance of your topic, using examples from authoritative sources. End your paper in a thoughtful way.

If you’re not writing your essay for the AP test, you can approach the writing process in a more creative way, making the structure more complicated. Here are a few methods that will help you present your ideas.

  • Illustrations and examples. You may provide a detailed summary or a quote from sources that directly supports your opinion. However, don’t provide too many examples.
  • Straw man. This method implies presenting an opposite argument, demonstrating its weaknesses and your awareness of the opposite opinion. First, write your thesis statement, provide the counter-argument, and then refute it. After this, provide an argument that supports your thesis.
  • Concession. This method is somewhat similar to the previous one. However, in this case, you admit that the counter-argument is valid. Nevertheless, you should also demonstrate that your argument is stronger. This method is especially good if you’re preparing your essay for an audience that holds a different opinion.
  • Comparison and contrast. Compare similarities and explain the differences between the two sources or subjects to present both sides. To use this method effectively, you need to read all your sources carefully, paying your attention to all the similarities and differences.

Write the outline for a background or a review synthesis essay. Although most synthesis essays focus on a thesis statement, review synthesis and background essays are more about ideas expressed in the sources. You can structurize these synthesis essays in two ways:

  • List of reasons. In this case, you should provide a series of points related to your main opinion. Support each reason with evidence. We recommend that you start with the weakest reason and move towards the strongest one.
  • Summary. In this case, you should summarize each of your sources, also presenting arguments in a progressive way. This approach allows you to support your thesis with specific evidence while paying a little attention to your own point. This approach is most often used in review and background essays.

Write Your Essay

1. Write the first draft according to your outline. However, it will not necessarily follow it strictly. You might find many new ideas while working with your sources during the writing process. When writing for the AP test, you will have not enough time to write several drafts so make sure to make your first draft good. Keep in mind that your essay should have an introduction with the thesis statement, the main body, and conclusion.

2. Use the third person (using such words as “it,” “he,” and “she”). Write in a clear way, creating complete sentences, you should demonstrate your credibility, writing in the active voice. However, you can also use the passive voice in situations where you would use the first or second person.

3. Make transitions between paragraphs. This way, it will be easier to make your text flow logically. In transitions, you can point out where different sources support your point and each other.


1. Once you’ve written your essay, revise it. Improve your transitions and make your argument stronger. Make sure that your essay is easy to read, get rid of all the inconsistencies and unnecessary sentences. We also recommend that you ask somebody else to proofread your essay. The best solution is to order professional proofreading on

2. Proofread your paper and fix any punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors. Check all of the proper nouns, and make sure there are no fragments. We also recommend that you read your paper out loud to better understand how it sounds.

3. You also need to cite your sources. Provide a bibliography with a list of cited works at the end of your paper and use footnotes. Footnotes are used in the text for paraphrased material and quotes. When writing a college essay, you will likely have to format your citations according to MLA, Chicago, or APA style. When working on the AP test, you won’t need to follow a certain citation style. However, you will still need to provide cited sources.

Finally, title your essay and make sure that the title reflects your thesis. We recommend that you always write the title after the whole essay has been completed. Otherwise, you might write your essay trying to make it fit the title.

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