A well-written synthesis essay calls for carefully gathering information from a diverse range of sources to create a new idea, generate a new question, or develop a strong argumentative thesis. This often calls for discussing ideas, analyzing data, and reviewing evidence to either explain or argue a truly original idea.
Of course, this is a challenging type of essay for anyone to compose, and it can often feel challenging for students who are new to the process. One of the hardest first steps calls for finding a unique topic to challenge the reader and then structuring it in a way that engages the reader to consider the idea from their own point of view.
It’s worth bearing in mind that synthesis essays can also be broken down into two types: Explanatory essays or argumentative synthesis essays.
The Difference Between an Explanatory and Argumentative Synthesis Essay
With an explanatory synthesis essay, the goal is to use a variety of resources to illuminate a specific point of view. This type of essay strongly relies on objectively examining the similarities as well as the key differences between ideas. Yet the author never completely chooses one side over the other. Nor does the author attempt to persuade the reader to choose one side over the other. The underlying goal is to objectively generate a new level of awareness in the reader and then allow them to draw their own conclusions in their own time.
With an argumentative synthesis essay, the thesis presents a specific point and argues it strongly. Here again, the author needs to draw information from a wide range of resources to clearly argue their own position on the presented topic. This involves making an explicit claim or creating a strongly opinionate thesis and then using the sources to support that thesis.
A synthesis essay should be written from the first-person point of view to help you connect with the reader. If you are writing an explanatory synthesis essay, you need to be particularly mindful to write from an objective point of view. Try to avoid opinionated words as best you can.
Throughout your essay, you will need to offer supporting facts and sources. Any time you are offering up something that isn’t directly stated as your opinion you need to quote the source directly. Make sure to include the name of the individual or institution that provided the information. If the information is related to a key date or time of publication, be sure to include that information as well.
Structuring a Synthesis Essay
Both explanatory and argumentative synthesis essays use a typical five-paragraph essay structure. Though there are some finer points structuring synthesis essays that you need to keep in mind.
The introduction of a synthesis essay plays an important role and needs to clearly express your topic early and with authority. You need to state your topic introducing some of your sources. This plays a key role in introducing the argument or explanation that you put forward in your thesis statement.
Your thesis statement needs to succinctly state your primary argument while only being a sentence or two in total length. Ideally, you want your thesis statement to be placed at the end of your introductory paragraph, as readers tend to remember the last thing they read with greater effect.
When following the typical five-paragraph structure, the body of your synthesis essay should contain three distinct paragraphs long. Typically the first two paragraphs represent information gleaned from your sources to strongly support your argument.
Then the third body paragraph acknowledges any existing opposing arguments. This is especially important for explanatory synthesis essays which rely on objectivity to present their argument succinctly.
The synthesis essay’s conclusion should reiterate the argument that has been carried through your essay. You should try to summarize how each of the points presented is soundly supported by your cited sources. If you are composing an argumentative essay, you should complete it with some type of call to action or a confident statement noting that your argument is indeed correct in the face of a potentially opposing view.
Bibliography and Citing Sources
A good synthesis essay is imbued with authority by the cited, supporting sources. This typically calls for including bibliography or footnotes at the end of the essay or the bottom of the last page. Depending on the writing style guidelines you might have to format the bibliography using APA, MLA, AP, or Chicago Manual techniques. With some longer, in-depth topic the bibliographic citations might take one to two pages at the end of your paper.
Choosing a Synthesis Essay Topic
When choosing a good topic for your synthesis essay, you should start by investigating topics that you are curious about. If you are planning to write an argumentative synthesis essay, you should try prioritizing a subject you feel passionate about.
Before committing to anyone topic, make sure to do your research. Seek out strong sources from scholarly articles, reputable journalistic sources, or published scientific papers, rather than sources created by inflammatory news media or biased websites.
Here is a list of topic suggestions for you.
Climate Change Topics
- Can solar power truly replace fossil fuels?
- Are electric cars really good for the environment?
- With sea-level rise inevitable, should we retrofit coastal cities?
- How does air pollution contribute to global warming?
- Climate change can change the average human lifespan.
- Farming practices will need to change in the face of climate change?
- How climate change is contributing to marine species extinction?
- Would cessation of fossil fuel use stop climate change?
- Have we already crossed the tipping point in climate change?
- Can cessation of single-use plastics prevent plastic debris in the ocean?
- Biodiesel is a better alternative than electric vehicles.
- We are in the middle of a new global extinction event.
- Can carbon capture reverse climate change?
- Should we cap the limits on water extraction from the Colorado river indefinitely?
- The water of the Great Lakes needs to be legally preserved to prevent use during a drought.
Social Media Topics
- Social media has decreased our real-world social skills.
- Social media shaming psychologically affects our notions of beauty.
- Social media stress affects the academic performance of middle school children.
- Facebook is a direct threat to an individual’s right to privacy.
- How social media has changed dating habits.
- Online dating apps like Tinder have altered relationship skills.
- Instagram promotes stereotyping.
- Social media has been a lifeline during the pandemic for people who need social interaction.
- Social media has affected journalistic integrity standards.
- Social media has the power to influence political elections.
- Students should be given access to elective classes at an earlier age.
- Standardized testing has too much influence on college acceptance requirements.
- Tablets and other technology are not an effective replacement for textbooks.
- Should public schools have stronger or more relaxed dress code requirements?
- Teachers and faculty should have access to firearms in schools.
- Not enough is being done to prevent active shooters in schools.
- Should University education be free, and if so how would that influence entrance requirement?
- Does technology threaten or enhance the traditional classroom experience?
- Class size has a strong influence on academic performance.
- Are athletic scholarships a threat to educational integrity?
- Does race influence college acceptance.
- Art & Music should be electives in middle and high school.
- Athletic participation in public schools should be free.
- School lunch programs should be free to all.
- After-school care programs should not be tax-deductible.
- Making preschool free will improve academic performance statistics at every level.
- Private schools offer a better education.
- Homeschooling offers a better education than public schools.
- Private schools should not be tax-exempt.
- Should high school athletes be paid to play?
- Is Distance Learning an inferior or superior form of education?
- Remote learning should be used to continue education on snow days.
- Open enrolled students should have a tax deferment from their original community.
- Cursive handwriting is outdated and should be removed from the curriculum.
- Should vocational and trades schools be free?
- A college education has less relevance for employment today than it did 20 years ago.
- Should continuing education for teachers be free?
- Should student loan rates be reduced by law?
- A child who uses a weapon in school should be permanently expelled.
- A student who is caught using tobacco or alcohol should be banned from athletic participation.
- Zoom makes it possible to work from home just as productively as being in the office.
- Violence in video games is directly responsible for the increase in real-life violence.
- Should drone regulations be increased or decreased?
- Machine learning affects business productivity.
- Should professional game players make as much money as professional athletes?
- Is the development of artificial intelligence a true threat to human freedom?
- The development of a quantum computer will be as historically unbalancing to the 21st Century as the first atomic bomb was to the 20th
- Does technology promote entertainment culture?
- Screentime requirements should be enforced for all age groups.
- Access to technology increases the gap between the rich and the poor.
- Should the death penalty be made illegal at the Federal Level?
- The Americans with Disabilities Act needs to be updated to include internet access.
- Men should be granted 6 weeks of paternity leave when their spouse has a child.
- Federal elections should be based on the popular vote, not the electoral college.
- Online sports gambling should be made illegal.
- Proof of vaccination should be required at all border crossings and access to flights.
- Should credit card debt be passed to the next of kin as part of an estate when someone passes?
- Tobacco products should be banned.
- If a child commits a crime the parents should be held accountable.
- Children under 18 should not have to pay employment taxes on their paychecks.
- Does modern society support women as much as it supports men?
- Journalistic integrity has eroded in the 21st
- There should be a registry for all felons like there is for sex offenders.
- Unisex bathrooms should be available for transgender individuals.
- Food & cooking TV shows are contributing to obesity rates.
- Female celebrities are contributing to body dysmorphia issues in young women and men.
- Alcohol abuse is more dangerous than marijuana use.
- Celebrity chefs endorse products rather than helping the average person learn how to cook healthy foods.
- Violent dog breeds like pit bulls should be made illegal to own.
- What effect does poverty have on children?
Art & Literature Topics
- Should video game design be considered a true art form?
- Does music enhance learning or distract students?
- Should graffiti be considered a true art form?
- Creative non-fiction books should be reclassified as fiction.
- Are paper books better than e-books?
- Are audiobooks better than e-books and paper books?
- Should digital libraries be used to phase out physical book libraries?
- Jim Harrison was a better poet in the modern age than Shakespeare was in the Renaissance.
- Does science-fiction promote social progress or distract people from important social issues of the day?
- Should cable news shows be classified as entertainment instead of journalism?
Politics & Ethics Topics
- Should more be done to create pathways to help illegal immigrants become naturalized citizens?
- Is the concept of the American dream still valid in the 21st Century?
- Should we ban imported products from companies that don’t protect the working conditions that make them?
- Should COVID vaccines be provided free of charge to third-world nations?
- Should there be a uniform code for the treatment of animals in zoos and circuses?
- Should a consumer consider the sustainability of a company’s products before purchasing them?
- Is it ethical to genetically engineer domestic animals?
- Is enough being done in prisons to rehabilitate inmates for a return to society?
- Has the executive branch of the US government grown beyond the control of checks & balances?
- Why are poor individuals more likely to end up in prison than the wealthy?
- Would repeal the Second Amendment of the Constitution stop school shootings?
- Would the mandatory use of body cams reduce police brutality rates?
- Would legalizing prostitution improve health standards for women working in that field?
- Is the three-strikes law an effective deterrent?
- What is the best way to deal with prison overcrowding?
If you are struggling to find a topic for your synthesis essay, you might want to consider one of the ideas above.