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The Synthesis Essay - Gathering and Organizing Information
The first experience with a synthesis essay generally occurs in secondary school. Students in English or core classes are asked to complete a short research work on a given topic. The topic may or may not be wildly controversial, but there may be a number of viewpoints expressed by those who have written on the topic before. Consider the theories of the beginning of the Universe, for example. There are at least three major theories, although the Big Bang theory appears to be the most popular currently. A student will then conduct research on these theories and construct a well-organized paper, explaining each one, but not necessarily positing his or her own opinion as to their validity.
The purpose of the synthesis essay, then, is to gather information, to organize it in a structurally sound manner, and to provide that information to the reader. The synthesis essay is, in essence, a factual piece, reporting on the thoughts and ideas of others, not one's own. Such a paper does not preclude a thesis statement, however, as all academic writing should contain one, usually in the introduction. With the synthesis essay, however, the reader is primarily introduced to the topic of the piece and to the fact that several prominent individuals in the topic field have differing opinions or have contributed differently to the topic.
The body of the synthesis essay will be lengthy, based upon the requirements of the instructor and upon the amount of research conducted to adequately cover the topic. For example, if a student were to write on the historical development of the astronomy, focusing on the conceptions of the Universe, one would perhaps begin with the early astronomers who believed the earth to be flat and the sky to be a dome over it. As navigation, the ability to measure, and scientific instruments improved, however, the view changed. In this type of synthesis essay, then, the organization would be historical, and is relatively easy to plan. With topics that do not lend themselves to historical structure, different methods of organization will be utilized. An easy method is to organize the body around the predominant views of something, posited by experts in the topic field.
If an economics student were to tackle the causes of the global recession that began in 2008, he or she would necessarily read and listen to the views of prominent economists, many of whom have very different views on the matter. Here, the paper might be organized around each cause and relate how each of the economists valued and prioritized that cause.
The conclusion for a synthesis essay need not propose any opinion or persuasive statement. It is meant to summarize the researched and reported material, referring back to the thesis statement of the introduction.
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