Chapter 5: Writing a Summary and Synthesizing
5.3 Make Connections When Synthesizing in Your Writing
Svetlana Zhuravlova, Yvonne Bruce, and Melanie Gagich
The previous section introduces you to the idea of synthesis as conversation, and you are given a definition of synthesis throughout this text, but how do you indicate synthesis in your writing? When you synthesize, you are responding to the voices and ideas of others, so you should be as flexible in your written response to them as you would be in a verbal response to those you were having a discussion with about a complex topic. Primarily, your synthesis will indicate agreement or disagreement with your sources, but it may also recognize patterns of thinking, errors in logic, or the omission of important points—whatever it is you are adding to the conversation.
Synthesis that adds to the conversation in other ways:
- While most of the experts on topic X see overfishing as the primary cause of species depletion, only Source D acknowledges that there may be other, environmental causes.
- When I began writing about topic X, I expected to learn reason Y. To my surprise, none of the sources address this reason, which leads me to believe that . . .
- Because Source A is the expert in the field of topic X, most others writing about X accede to A’s authority, but a closer examination of A reveals an important omission about X.
Other Examples of Sentence Structures that Demonstrate Synthesis
Synthesis that indicates agreement/support:
- Source A asserts that… Source B agrees when he or she states…
- According to both A & B…
- The combined conclusions of sources B & C seem to indicate that…
- The evidence shows that…
- Source B is correct that…
- Source C makes a convincing case when she argues…
- I agree with Source A’s conclusion that…
Synthesis that indicates disagreement/conflict:
- Source A asserts that…Yet Source B offers a different perspective by…
- Source C & B would likely disagree regarding…
- My view, however, contrary to what Source A has argued, is…
- I argue that X & Y are the best solution, though Source B offers a different option.
- In contrast, I would like to offer some objections to the opinions expressed by source C…
- While source A makes an intriguing argument, I would disagree…
What the above examples indicate is that synthesis is the careful weaving in of outside opinions in order to show your reader the many ideas and arguments on your topic and further assert your own. Notice, too, that the above examples are also signal phrases : language that introduces outside source material to be either quoted or paraphrased. See section 11.4 for more information on signal phrases.
Remember that you are working with multiple sources, so it is important to remember the following:
Consider your audience : they are intelligent readers, most likely belong to academic environment; however, they are not familiar with all your source-materials, so they rely upon your presentation to get the meaning of the information you have retrieved from your research. Make it clear to your audience what information is taken from which of your sources.
A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing by Svetlana Zhuravlova, Yvonne Bruce, and Melanie Gagich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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How Do You Write a Synthesis Paragraph
November 25, 2022 by Beth Hall
If you’re an AP ® Lang student learning how to write a synthesis essay , you might be wondering how do you write a synthesis paragraph. The body paragraphs are arguably the most important part of a synthesis essay because that is where you can earn up to 4 of the possible 6 points on the rubric. So, let’s learn how to write a synthesis paragraph effectively.
Planning Your Paragraph
Your body paragraphs need to prove your thesis. Each body paragraph will have it’s own main idea, and it is important to make sure your paragraphs are in a logical order.
How many body paragraphs for a synthesis essay?
For most AP ® Lang essays, students write 2 or 3 body paragraphs because of the time constraints. Think about quality instead of quantity. If you can only develop 2 body paragraphs, that’s okay. In fact, two strong body paragraphs is arguably better than three mediocre paragraphs.
The Body Paragraph Formula
So how do you write a synthesis body paragraph? Well, a strong body paragraph will have a topic sentence, layers of evidence and commentary, and a concluding sentence. Here’s a general breakdown:
- Topic sentence (claim that establishes the main idea)
- Specific evidence with a citation
- Commentary x2
- Concluding sentence
For a synthesis body paragraph, aim for more evidence than commentary. Too much evidence can make your synthesis essay seem like a summary.
Remember that a synthesis essay is an argument with sources, so you don’t want to oversaturate your argument with evidence. You need your own analysis. That’s why the commentary is so important.
Topic Sentences for Synthesis Paragraphs
As with other types of writing, the topic sentence of a synthesis paragraph should help lead into or establish the main idea or claim of the paragraph. Since you only have 40 minutes to write an AP ® Lang essay on the exam, you want to be sure each paragraph has a clear main idea that directly proves the thesis.
Here are some sentence frames for the topic sentence of your first synthesis body paragraph. Using these sentence frames is not required, but sometimes sentence frames help students articulate their ideas more quickly and clearly.
- Since (counterargument); however, …
- Given that…, it is only logical to…
- When considering X, one must recognize…/one would be remiss not to acknowledge…
- Considering that value of X, …
- Considering…, society should…
When transitioning to your second or third body paragraph, connect your ideas to strengthen your line of reasoning. Smoothly moving from the previous main idea to the new main idea creates a more pleasant experience for your reader.
Here are some possible sentence frames for your second or third synthesis body paragraph:
- Having already established that…
- In addition to X, …
- X is not just limited to Main Idea 1, however; it is also significant in Main Idea 2.
Now that you have written your topic sentence, the next component of your synthesis paragraph is evidence.
For synthesis essays, evidence can be a direct quote or paraphrase. When selecting direct quotes, keep them short (approximately 2-8 words.)
As you are annotating the sources, look for facts, statistics, expert testimony, or real-world examples, as these often make for more logical evidence.
Citing Evidence in a Synthesis Essay
For a synthesis essay, you need to cite three different sources . Make sure to include a parenthetical citation at the end of your sentence like you would in MLA or APA format.
For more information about how to cite sources in a synthesis essay, check out this blog post here or this video here .
Developing commentary for synthesis paragraphs.
Evidence must be followed by commentary. Why? Because commentary explains the significance of the evidence. Think of commentary as the “why,” “how,” and “so what.”
Since commentary is your analysis, you want to be sure to have more commentary than evidence. While it can be difficult to develop your commentary, try to make sure your commentary isn’t repetitive or merely summarizing your evidence, as this type of limited or simplistic commentary will result in a lower score.
How do you write a synthesis paragraph with commentary? Here are a few tips.
- Include some of the following verbs: conveys, demonstrates, emphasizes, highlights, illustrates, reveals, and underscores
- Ask yourself why the evidence matters? Why is the issue significant? Think about who is helped or harmed and why the issue matters to society in the present and future.
The concluding sentence is the last sentence of the paragraph. Use this sentence to “wrap up” the paragraph by tying back to the main idea/thesis. Don’t try to preview the next main idea in a concluding sentence. Remember that the topic sentence helps create this transition.
Even though it is called a concluding sentence, don’t write “in conclusion.” You can, however, use transition phrases such as “therefore,” “thus,” and “as such.”
The concluding sentence might seem trivial or redundant, but it can be a great way to remind your reader of your argument.
Synthesis Paragraph Examples
In order to fully answer the question how do you write a synthesis paragraph, let’s look at a sample.
The paragraphs below are a draft. See if you can identify the different components of the paragraphs.
Synthesis Body Paragraph 1
Given that the harm people experience due to Daylight Saving greatly outweighs the benefits associated with it, Daylight Saving should no longer play a role in society. Many parents dread Daylight Saving because it completely disrupts sleep and play schedules. At the same time, Daylight Saving creates long periods of darkness that cause danger in the winter and fall. Dark winter mornings are dangerous to children traveling to school, especially by themselves (Source A). Teen drivers, already drowsy, drive to school in the dark mornings observed during Daylight Saving. Because of this, they are more likely to be in car accidents that harm themselves and others. Also, young children walking to school or bus stops face the danger of people not seeing them and being hit. Though not all of these accidents are fatal, they cause lifelong emotional and physical trauma, which results in generations of children that fear driving, an essential life skill, because of negative experiences in their childhoods. Saving a little bit of energy is not worth endangering citizens. In addition causing an increase in accidents when clocks are adjusted, Daylight Saving also disrupts people’s circadian rhythms, thereby increasing chances of heart attacks and accidents (Source E). Yet, in other scenarios, if doctors knew that a situation would increase a patient’s likelihood of having a heart attack, they would recommend preventative measures. In this scenario, though, the best preventative measure is to stop Daylight Saving. Therefore, if the concept of “spring forward” and “fall back” unnecessarily adversely impacts citizens’ health, the responsible response would be to abandon the practice, especially when Daylight Saving has little to no current benefits.
Synthesis Body Paragraph 2
Though Daylight Saving’s harm to individuals is generally overlooked in order to preserve energy, studies show that the energy saved does not outweigh the energy consumption increase caused by Daylight Saving in the fall. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, American electricity usage is “reduced by about one percent during each day that Daylight Savings time is in effect” (Source B). Yes, Daylight Saving has a minor impact on environmental preservation, but the major impact made by the shift is far greater. According to Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant, authors of a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, in the fall “DST appears to increase consumption between 2 and 4 percent” (Source F). Heating and cooling necessities take the place of the demand for lighting in households. In reality, it actually has a greater negative impact than a positive one. Not only does the period cause energy usage increase but also it increases “social costs due to increased pollution emissions rang[ing] from $1.7 to $5.5 million per year” (Source F). This statistic illustrates that the common ideology that Daylight Saving promotes energy conservation remains outdated. Plus, more efficient methods to conserve energy, such as conscious consumption of energy and utilizing clean, renewable energy sources, exist. By eliminating Daylight Saving, the social and environmental costs associated with it would decrease considerably, if not altogether.
Need tips for creating a line of reasoning in your synthesis essay? Check out this video here.
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Teach students to synthesize nonfiction sources with confidence! Your students will learn a successful pattern for synthesis writing and analysis response with this easy-to-follow, recursive six-step process reference handout. Also included: sentence stems for synthesis writing.
1. State a Thesis/Topic Sentence
2. Introduce Evidence
3. Cite Evidence
4. Explain Evidence
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Synthesis Essays: A Step-by-Step How-To Guide
A synthesis essay is generally a short essay which brings two or more sources (or perspectives) into conversation with each other.
The word “synthesis” confuses every student a little bit. Fortunately, this step-by-step how-to guide will see you through to success!
Here’s a step-by-step how-to guide, with examples, that will help you write yours.
Before drafting your essay:
After reading the sources and before writing your essay, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the debate or issue that concerns all of the writers? In other words, what is the question they are trying to answer?
- On what points do they agree?
- On what points do they disagree?
- If they were having a verbal discussion, how would writer number one respond to the arguments of writer number two?
In a way, writing a synthesis essay is similar to composing a summary. But a synthesis essay requires you to read more than one source and to identify the way the writers’ ideas and points of view are related.
Sometimes several sources will reach the same conclusion even though each source approaches the subject from a different point of view.
Other times, sources will discuss the same aspects of the problem/issue/debate but will reach different conclusions.
And sometimes, sources will simply repeat ideas you have read in other sources; however, this is unlikely in a high school or AP situation.
To better organize your thoughts about what you’ve read, do this:
- Identify each writer’s thesis/claim/main idea
- List the writers supporting ideas (think topic sentences or substantiating ideas)
- List the types of support used by the writers that seem important. For example, if the writer uses a lot of statistics to support a claim, note this. If a writer uses historical facts, note this.
There’s one more thing to do before writing: You need to articulate for yourself the relationships and connections among these ideas.
Sometimes the relationships are easy to find. For example, after reading several articles about censorship in newspapers, you may notice that most of the writers refer to or in some way use the First Amendment to help support their arguments and help persuade readers. In this case, you would want to describe the different ways the writers use the First Amendment in their arguments. To do this, ask yourself, “How does this writer exploit the value of the First Amendment/use the First Amendment to help persuade or manipulate the readers into thinking that she is right?
Sometimes articulating the relationships between ideas is not as easy. If you have trouble articulating clear relationships among the shared ideas you have noted, ask yourself these questions:
- Do the ideas of one writer support the ideas of another? If so, how?
- Do the writers who reach the same conclusion use the same ideas in their writing? If not, is there a different persuasive value to the ideas used by one writer than by the other?
- Do the writers who disagree discuss similar points or did they approach the subject from a completely different angle and therefore use different points and different kinds of evidence to support their arguments?
- Review your list of ideas. Are any of the ideas you have listed actually the same idea, just written in different words?
7.3 COMPOSITION: Transitions between Ideas
You are probably already familiar with the more common transition words used in academic writing. For example:
- first, second, third …
- first, next, then, finally …
However, writing in college requires you to show your reader more than just sequence. Now you need to show the connections between ideas and explain the reason why one idea comes after another. Without transitions, your writing might seem “choppy” or “disconnected.” Your reader might feel that you are jumping from one idea to the next, and they don’t understand why or how you changed the topic. Transitions are especially important if you write your work in pieces and then try to assemble it later, which is what we do in this course.
Here are some common transitions:
Watch these videos to learn more about some specific transitions words you may not yet use:
Now practice with this exercise; it is not graded, and you may repeat it as many times as you wish:
Videos from: Benn, Adam. “Writing – Transitions – in Addition, Moreover, Furthermore, Another.” www.youtube.com, 29 Mar. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsDR3XEv50E. Accessed 30 Dec. 2021. “Writing – Transitions – Therefore, Thus, Consequently.” Www.youtube.com, 11 June 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL05g8eW10s. Accessed 30 Dec. 2021. “Writing – Advanced English Transitions: Thereby, Thereof, Hereby, Therein, Wherein, Whereby…” www.youtube.com, 20 Apr. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWQk67meYUA&t=1s. Accessed 30 Dec. 2021.
Synthesis Copyright © 2022 by Timothy Krause is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.