Synthesis involves incorporating information from one or more sources into an essay or report. Several basic steps are involved in the process.
Read the original articles to make sure you thoroughly understand the information and ideas presented there. If you are using information from your own experiences, make a detailed list. To make sure you understand the information, instructors will often require you to summarize the original source. However, a summary does not use the skill of synthesis, since it is simply a list of the main ideas in your own words. A summary does not pull together information, which is what synthesis does.
Focus on one particular aspect to handle. For most assignments, you will have a wide choice of ideas to develop. For example, if the instructor gives you two original articles on the unification of East and West Germany, you have a choice of writing about problems involved in unification, the reasons for unification, or the probable consequences of unification. You might even create other appropriate ways to handle the topic.
Select the facts and ideas from the sources that develop the idea about the topic you want to focus on. Once you have selected the focus for your essay, you will probably want to reread the original sources to help you select information you can use in your essay. For example, if you decided to write on the reasons for unification of East and West Germany, you would want to reexamine the two articles to look for reasons listed there. Remember to only use the information that fits your focus.
Organize the information in a logical manner. There are so many possible ways to organize information that there are few guidelines to follow. If you need assistance in organizing your information, stop by the Writing Lab and make a tutoring appointment.
Write the essay as you would any other essay. However, as you provide support for your ideas, you will use evidence gleaned from the articles you read. Unless instructed otherwise, be sure to indicate, or cite, the source of the support in your essay so your reader will know where the information is from. If the source is not properly listed, the reader will assume these ideas are your ideas, which is plagiarism.