How to write a synthesis paper

“How to write a synthesis paper” video tutorial link

As with any project, the first element is to understand the assignment.

For instance, here is the copy-and-paste instructions for this assignment, “Multi-Modal project,” by Carol Huebner:

“In a Multi-modal project, you communicate in multiple modes, usually writing and another mode such as video or voice recording, slide presentation, cartoon, poster, infographic, etc.

For this project your purpose is to inform, your audience is future students in this course, and you may select a genre from the modes listed above. Check with your instructor for approval if you wish to pursue a mode you don’t find listed above.

  • Create a project based on your work on one of the major papers for the course that demonstrates the stages of the writing process.

All projects should be your original work. Do not locate and slightly alter a presentation or other artifact published online. Quote any exact language from other sources and acknowledge, document, and cite all sources used.

Most students choose to create a PowerPoint presentation, Adobe Spark video, or a poster in response to this assignment. Be sure to save your copy of your work in case your instructor cannot access the file you have submitted. If you create a poster, submit a clear photograph of it.

Refer to examples in the module to get a sense of what an effective project looks like. Note the deadline listed in Modules and in the assignment.

Make an appointment with the Writing Center if you need help on any aspect of this assignment!”


In this writing assignment, the next step was to peruse the “major papers” of the semester and choose one which might best illustrate the steps of the writing process as described by the school goals for student learning in composition:

Rangers Write! Quality Enhancement plan

  • SLO #1: Students will write compositions containing a focused thesis developed by a logical sequence of detailed support.
  • SLO #2: Students will appropriately and consistently address the specifics of the chosen rhetorical situation (the intended genre, audience, and purpose).
  • SLO #3: Students will integrate source citations (direct quotes, paraphrases, summaries, and other borrowings) effectively with original writing according to the documentation style specified by the assignment.
  • SLO #4: Students will present final drafts that have been effectively edited to conform to Edited Standard Written English (ESWE).
  • SLO #5: Students will apply the writing process to assigned projects (complete writing assignments in multiple stages).

As I reflected the several papers written for the English Comp I class, I decided to showcase the final synthesis paper, since it gave me the opportunity to utilize some of the new findings discovered by me in this class:  Aristotle’s rhetoric.  Aristotle described several communication methods to attract the reader:  ethos, logos and pathos.  Ethos is an effort to convince the audience of the validity and trustworthiness of a topic.  Logos uses facts to urge the reader to see that: “if this is true and valid, then this follows.”  Pathos is an empathic approach to appeal to the emotions of the reader.  The third paper was the paper in which I incorporated these rhetorical strategies.

In the synthesis paper, the point was not only to summarize, compare the ideas of several writers on a given topic (Parenting styles), but to analyze their techniques of delivery.

Here were the instructional guidelines given my teacher, Carroll Huebner, for the synthesis paper (edited by me):

“The final writing project for the course is to read and critically consider a series of texts on a common topic, synthesize the authors’ “conversation,” and add your own voice to the discussion.

This module is designed to support student success in responding to the NWCC English Composition I Common Assignment with a step-by-step guide through the process.

Your process may include more steps than this, but here is a path to guide your progress on this final project:

  1. Analyze the assignment.
  2. Read each source closely.
  3. Analyze each source. 
  4. Draw connections among the sources using a synthesis grid. 
  5. Formulate a thesis.
  6. Plan the organization of the essay. 
  7. Draft, revise, and edit.

Step 1: Analyze the Assignment:

To analyze the assignment, question the rhetorical situation. What genre conventions should you follow? What audience should you keep in mind as you work through the process? What is your purpose for writing?

Let’s closely consider the components of the rhetorical situation for the ENG Composition I common assignment.

The genre is essay, and the audience is academic.

To effectively respond to the assignment, your writing should follow the conventions and expectations for academic essays.

First of all, your overall point and your development of that point should be based in evidence that is clearly presented and documented.  The evidence you provide should favor appeals to reason over appeals to emotion. With this in mind, you should avoid long personal narratives, anecdotes, and abstract or hypothetical situations that are not convincing to an academic audience.

Secondly, your word choice and tone should be formal. This means that you should not use slang, jargon, and other informal expressions. Unless your instructor tells you otherwise, first person (“I, me, my”) and second person (“you, your”) should probably be avoided.

Refer as needed to one or more of the following resources to guide your writing:

Patterns for College Writers: PART ONE: The Writing Process

A Writer’s Reference: Section A1: Reading and writing critically and Section W4 Appropriate language

The purpose is to synthesize.

For the assignment, you will carefully read multiple texts on a common issue or topic. Your challenge is to synthesize them for your reader. The key goal of synthesis writing is to explain how the sources relate to one another, to make the connections and distinctions among them clear to the reader. Because synthesis requires this, complete and critical reading of each source is essential.

In other words, synthesis writing goes beyond using sources to support the writer’s point to explain how the sources relate to one another in terms of common ground, points of disagreement, angle of focus on the topic, attention given to various aspects of the topic, effectiveness of analysis or arguments, etc.

Effective synthesis writing demonstrates the writer’s ability to clarify points of common ground and points of distinction among the sources utilized in the essay.

Study the prompt or assignment handout and any related instructional materials your instructor has provided to ensure that you fully understand the task at hand before moving forward.

If you need help understanding your assignment or developing a plan of action in response to it, the NWCC Writing Center can help.”



Four different papers were given to me on parenting techniques.  My goal was to synthesize the authors of the parenting publications.

I printed the papers, stapled them and put them in the bathroom, so that every time I sat down, I would pick them up, read them and study them.

As I spent “time” on the papers, I underlined and highlighted key points which I perceived that the writers were wanting me to comprehend.

I opened a Word document and filed it in my ENG1113 file according to the name of the assignment.

I began writing.  I tried to sit down and spew out everything that came to my mind without looking at the papers themselves.  I focused on what I could easily remember from each author.

I then spent time with the MLA guidelines and worked on my references.  I eventually utilized three of the four papers offered for analysis synthesis.

I checked the formatting options regarding page numbering, header, double-spacing and font style and size.   Updated.

I searched the internet for more information for ethos, logos and pathos so that I could then go back through the papers and identify strategic rhetorical appeals the authors used.

I constantly referred to the writer’s guide and performed spell checks and grammar checks for clarity and conciseness.

I slept on it.

While I was in the shower, an addition came to me.

I added it to the Word document.

I was driving and meditating, and another idea popped into my mind.

I added it to the Word document.

I participated in a peer review of the project, which allowed me to look at the work of others in my class.  That was helpful.  Every person had a different “take” on the same topic.

I received feedback on my instructor regarding some changes I needed to make in my use of references.

I made the changes that I perceived my instructor was helping me with.

I peer reviewed more students who were assigned to me.  It helped me remember the power of spell check and grammar check.  Peer reviewing also reminded me the importance of understanding the assignment.  Some of my peers did not.

I took English Comp I back in the 1980’s and was relatively terrified of the whole deal.  Recently, I completed my second master’s degree and discovered weaknesses in my grasp of writing, technology and math.  This class is part of my personal goal for improvement regarding my writing.

I had already learned to do multiple drafts but had no idea how to utilize rhetoric in my writing.  I can feel my level of confidence inching upward in my writing, my editing, and my videography.  Isn’t it crazy that learning how to be a better writer could make me a better videographer?!  Now I am looking for more opportunities to look for trustworthiness (ethos), logical progression (logos) and emotional appeal (pathos) in my videography!  In one of my science teaching classes, I had my students help me to explore the use of rhetoric in a forensic science video.  I am spending time getting certified in Snagit (a screen capture tool), so that I can do a video screen recording of a PowerPoint of this project.  Improve.  Innovate.  Collaborate.

In the case of this multi-modal project, I emailed my teacher and obtained permission to do a blog.  My goal is to do a blog with a link to a “How to write a synthesis paper” video tutorial, which I also made for this project with Snagit.


“How to write a synthesis paper” video tutorial link


Works Cited

Huebner, Carroll.  “Multi-modal project.”  English Composition, ENG 111335, Fall 2019.

Huebner, Carroll.  “Synthesis essay project.”  English Composition, ENG 111335, Fall 2019.

“Rangers Write!” Northwest 2016 Quality Enhancement Plan, 2016.

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