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A Guide to Synthesizing Sources

  1. What is a synthesis? 
    A synthesis is a written discussion incorporating support from several sources of similar or differing views. This type of assignment requires that you examine a variety of sources and identify their relationship to your thesis.
  2. Synthesis is used in:
    • Analysis papers to examine related theories.
      • Ex.: a comparison between the theories of evolution or who shot JFK.
    • Research/explanatory papers to incorporate multiple sources.
      • Ex.: a look at economic and social effects of proposed legislation.
    • Argument papers to compare differing views and support a coherent claim.
      • Ex.: Are plagiarism checkers a violation of student’s rights? One side may argue that these companies steal students’ papers while others claim that students agree to have their work archived.
    • Business reports to examine differing ideas and blend into a coherent plan.
      • Ex.: What are some of the plans to improve Toledo’s waterfront to attract more visitors and increase business opportunities?
  3. Tips for effective synthesis:
    • Establish your purpose to shape the way you want to argue and form your thesis. The thesis is the main claim or idea of your essay.
    • Select your sources and become familiar with them so that you can discuss them in relationship to your thesis and supporting argument(s). If you simply quote sources without evaluating them, then the sources will control your paper and your audience may misinterpret the information.
    • Develop an organizational plan. Arrange more than just one source per point; multiple sources will increase your credibility. Look at how sources may agree or disagree with one another, and evaluate which source has better logic or more credibility.
    • Evaluate or interpret each source, then show the relationship between the sources and your thesis.
    • Document each source according to established citation guidelines in the style specified by your instructor (MLA, APA, etc.). This MUST be done if you quote, summarize, or paraphrase a source.
  4. Strategies for organization:
    • Climactic order arranges the most important/persuasive evidence last since this is what is remembered.
    • Problem/solution establishes the problem in the introduction, and then offers a few solutions.
    • Comparison and contrast
      • Summarizes each source and shows their similarities and differences.
      • Can move from point-to-point, back and forth between items being compared.
  5. Analyze the position of each source; you can use these verbs to note the author’s tone:
  6. Argumentative:

    • affirms
    • argues
    • confirms
    • contends
    • denies
    • disagrees
    • believes
    • concedes
    • insists
    • rejects
    • responds
    • emphasizes


    • adds
    • reveals
    • states
    • mentions
    • finds
    • verifies


    • alleges
    • warns
    • advises
    • admits
    • complains
    • holds
    • predicts
    • proposes
    • acknowledges
    • speculates
    • suggests
  7. Which tense do I use?
    • MLA- use present tense: Shakespeare writes...
    • APA- use past tense: Dr. Bombay affirmed the value...
  8. If you have any questions, contact your instructor, refer to your course textbook, and visit the Writing Center.

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