The term “synthesis” means to combine separate elements to form a whole. Faculty often use this term when assigning students a literature review or other paper that requires the use of a variety of sources. Faculty expect that students write papers that make a variety of connections among source material so that their papers are not organized source- by-source but are organized topic-by-topic to create a whole text.
Synthesis occurs when you use evidence from multiple sources within one paragraph or section of a paper to support a larger objective argument or conclusion based on a body of research. The goal of synthesis is to support claims by providing a holistic sense of the research available. This means a writer must not only cite multiple sources, but must make relationships between sources clear.
For example, a writer should be clear about which sources completely support the writer’s conclusion, which slightly disagree or deviate from the conclusion, which offer a new angle or approach to the conclusion, and how sources/findings might agree or disagree with one another. Synthesis words (see below) are used to emphasize relationships among sources. After reading a synthesis, a reader should have a comprehensive understanding of the research findings and how they do or do not support the writer’s conclusion.
Synthesis is not:
The argument or conclusion the writer has formed based on research findings appears in the topic sentence of the paragraph. Multiple sources are used throughout the paragraph to support the claim made. Within the paragraph, a writer may use multiple sources within each sentence to show how a body of research supports the claim.
Agrees; Concurs; Supports; Also; Similarly; Disagrees; Conversely; In opposition to; Diverges from; Differs; Expounds on; Adds to; Expands on; Clarifies
Summary: The Building Block of Synthesis
When you move from writing summaries of your texts to synthesis of them, there are a number of points you must keep in mind:
Anson, C. M., Schwegler, R. A., & Muth, M. F. (2006). The longman pocket writer's companion. Longman Publishing Group.