Organizing the Synthesis


Key Features of a Synthesis

  1. It analyzes information from the sources using a variety of evidence from both sources in each body paragraph;
  2. It is organized in such a way that readers can immediately see where the information from the sources overlap;
  3. It makes sense of how the sources speak to one another and helps the reader understand them in greater depth.

Preparing to Write Your Synthesis Essay: Analyzing the Assignment Directions

The key to understanding any assignment is to analyze the language on the assignment prompt in order to understand what your purpose and audience should be. Take a moment to review the Synthesis assignment and read How to Analyze Assignment Directions in Excelsior OWL.  Often, the wording of your assignment will direct you to what sorts of themes or traits you should look for in your synthesis.  At other times, though, you may be assigned two or more sources and told to synthesize them.  In such cases you need to formulate your own purpose, and develop your own perspectives and interpretations. 

Where to Begin

A systematic preliminary comparison will help. Begin by summarizing briefly the points, themes, or traits that the texts have in common (you might find summary-outline notes useful here).  Explore different ways to organize the information depending on what you find or what you want to demonstrate.  You might find it helpful to make several different outlines or plans before you decide which to use.  As the most important aspect of a synthesis is its organization, you can’t spend too long on this aspect of your paper!

Organizing the Synthesis Essay

A synthesis essay should be organized so that others can understand the sources and evaluate your comprehension of them and their presentation of themes.

The following format works well:



Your Introduction should engage the reader by “hooking” the audience’s attention. You can use an example from the text, an interesting (appropriate quote), or a small anecdote tied to the content of your essay. Avoid summarizing the text. Instead, focus on introducing what critical theory you will be using, and how you plan to argue this in your essay.


You purpose is your thesis, and it should frame your overall essay in the form of a statement reasonable people could argue. You may state your purpose in the first sentence of your introduction or your last, or you may use multiple sentences to illustrate your position; however, chose your language carefully. Your purpose should be clear and written concisely. Above all your purpose should address HOW and WHY your opinion about the sources matters.

Critical Source Paragraph

You’re free to jump into the body paragraphs to support your argument, but it may be more helpful to your audience if you take the time to introduce your critical theory that you will be using as a lens. Don’t summarize the theory. Instead, introduce how the theory will be applied to the two sources.

Body Paragraphs (plan to construct at least 6 to 8 body paragraphs)

A good body paragraph in a synthesis essay contains three main parts: a claim, evidence from both texts, and explanation/ evaluation.

  • Claim: Start with a topic sentence, which will argue one point in the paragraph. If you start analyzing another claim, then you need to take the time to break your paragraph in order to organize your essay.
  • Evidence: Use specific examples from both sources. Remember, short direct quotations that are correctly introduced with a signal phrase and paraphrases are much stronger than simple summary. Always integrate your evidence with signal phrases and proper MLA in-text citation.
  • Explanation: Take the time to develop your paragraphs by explaining how your evidence proves the claim you made in your topic sentence. Aside from evidence, your explanation is the most critical part of any body paragraph in a synthesis essay. What you are explaining is how the evidence you are comparing and contrasting speaks to your claim.


The conclusion needs to show deeper insight about the topic by: using a quote; discussing the need for further action/research; a call for action/change; an anecdote about how the issue has affected the author personally.