Synthesis of Terms and Concept

As noted in the Synthesis Workshop on this web site, “synthesis is the bringing together of two or more works by drawing conclusions from those works and making connections between them.  The ability to create a synthesis is dependent upon the ability to take implicit relationships and make them explicit” (Defore).

The synthesis essay assignment is adaptable to courses in all academic disciplines and can be useful in meeting a number of course goals, including:

  • Requiring students to read critically, analyze, and compare course texts and other assigned readings.
  • Helping students to verbalize important disciplinary terms in their own words.
  • Giving students practice in following the documentation and citation style of a particular discipline before they do a more involved writing or research project.

The following assignment is a general explanatory synthesis that can be adapted to any readings.

Assignment: Synthesis of Terms and Concepts

For this assignment, you will write an explanatory synthesis essay on the terms and concepts of _______.  An explanatory synthesis compares two or more sources and draws conclusions based on your collective analysis of those sources. This essay will also give you practice using ______ documentation style.

The primary sources for this synthesis should be: (list sources).

Begin by reading the sources and taking notes on key points.  After reading the sources, you can plan your own essay:

1. Begin by stating in one sentence the overall purpose of the assignment.  (This will become your thesis statemen

2. Decide on the main topics of your synthesis.  In organizing the paper, select an arrangement of information:

a)      Climactic Order– Body paragraphs are organized to support the thesis by listing concepts from greatest to least important

c)      Compare/Contrast –  looks at the similarities and differences between the points of view in the two sources; ends with the student’s analysis

3. Consider Counterarguments – do the sources oppose eachother in anyway?  Explain.

In drafting your essay:

  • Start with an informative title
  • Start with an introduction that identifies the significance of the concepts or terms within the discipline.
  • Develop a synthesis organized in an effective way to explain the concepts or terms.
  • Strategically cite the source information, using quotes and paraphrasing.
  • Be sure to follow quotes or ideas from your sources with commentary in your own words.
  • Compare and contrast how the different sources explain and develop ideas.  Your explanation should show that you have a thorough understanding of the source, including the major supports and the counterarguments that the source discusses.
  • Analyze the sources.  In what ways are they helpful, complete, incomplete, and/or lacking?  Why?
  • Conclude with how the terms and concepts are important to students and researchers of the field.
  • Use formal language and a tone suitable for an academic audience (no contractions, slang, or colloquialisms; no fragments, run-ons, etc.).


?         Essay length 2-3 pages

?         Typed, double-spaced, and conforming to _____ style

?         Includes List of Sources / Works Cited page (does not count towards your essay’s page count)

Draft due________

Final paper due ____