Week 3: Synthesis Essay

MOOC - UC Irvine - Advanced Writing

Week 3: Synthesis Essay

“Module Introduction…Synthesis Essay Video Lecture…Teacher Discusses a Synthesis Essay and Using Sources…MLA Format Basics…”


  • Module Introduction
  • Synthesis Essay Video Lecture
  • Teacher Discusses a Synthesis Essay and Using Sources
  • MLA Format Basics

Module Introduction

  • You’ve learned a lot already about using sources to make your writing more academic.
  • You know how to use quotation marks on direct quotes.
  • The first thing you’ll do in this module is learn a little more about plagiarism.
  • In this essay, you’ll get more practice using sources.
  • It’s more challenging, but if you study all of the materials and be patient with yourself, you’ll be successful.

Synthesis Essay Video Lecture

  • In this lesson, you’re going to learn how to write a synthesis essay.
  • Your job is to pick the one aspect that interests you the most and that you have enough ideas about to write an essay with several body paragraphs.
  • So the writer might come up with a thesis such as this.
  • This thesis has a topic, the threat of rising sea levels, and a controlling idea, it will devastate people near the ocean.
  • Then the writer is going to think of several examples of that devastation.
  • Then the writer will use some examples from his different sources to help support these points.
  • Remember you don’t want to have only three body paragraphs.
  • Writer’s ideas four or five body paragraphs will make your essay more developed and convincing.
  • So look at this and see which ones are complex enough to be dealt with in two or more paragraphs.
  • Each of them might be able to work for two paragraphs, but the easiest one is probably right here.
  • The writer can divide this topic in a couple of different ways and develop at least two good paragraphs.
  • He might decide to have one paragraph about the locals who will lose money because they can’t fish or because their homes are destroyed.
  • The writer could have another body paragraph about the money lost internationally because of this community’s trouble.
  • Let’s talk a little bit about developing the body paragraphs.
  • Here’s the topic of our first body paragraph and the three supporting ideas this writer will use to develop that paragraph.
  • The writer will give a couple of details for each one, and this is where the writer will use his source material.
  • With this first supporting idea, the writer might talk about some countries whose populations are mostly near the coast.
  • The writer found this quote in an article he read from International Business Times.
  • For the second supporting idea, the writer wants to use these details.
  • Then the writer will want to use a source to help support this point.
  • For the third supporting idea, the writer gives an example of a reason why people would be afraid.
  • Then the writer looks in his articles for a quote to back this up.
  • So now the writer has found three quotes to go in this paragraph, one for each of his supporting ideas.
  • We just looked at a quote from an outside source for each supporting idea in the first paragraph.
  • That’s good if you can find one for each support, but its okay if you only do that for maybe two of the supporting ideas, as long as you have other specific examples for each supporting idea.
  • Outside quotes are valuable to your academic writing, because they show that you are not the only one who has these ideas.
  • So in your synthesis essay, try to have at least two quotes in each body paragraph.
  • Generally speaking, an academic essay should not have more than about ten or 12% source material.
  • So you might have two or three short quotes in each paragraph.
  • It’s a good kind of essay to help you start learning to use sources and to get ready for writing research papers.

Teacher Discusses a Synthesis Essay and Using Sources

  • I’ll show you how the writer used sources in the essay.
  • Now one other thing you should know about a synthesis essay is that teachers can give you different rules about how to write the synthesis essay for their assignment.
  • Some teachers might give you several readings and just ask you to write about those readings and not include other ideas.
  • Some teachers might give you several sources and tell you to add other sources of your own to synthesize.
  • You’ll always want to check with your teacher to see what kind of synthesis he or she wants you to write.
  • In this essay, the writer had a short introduction, where he used a hook about the movie The Martian.
  • So that’s the point that the writer is going to show to the reader.
  • In the fourth body paragraph, the writer talked about another aspect of traveling to Mars.
  • In the fifth body paragraph, the writer talked about the problems that need to be figured out before a trip to Mars would work.
  • The other thing I wanna show you is the sources that the writer put into the essay.
  • In the first body paragraph, the writer was writing from his own ideas, so he didn’t use any source material there.
  • In the second body paragraph, the writer used a quote, right here.
  • You see in this quotation, the writer used attribution.
  • This quote is blended into the writer’s own words.
  • Instead, the writer used a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence.
  • You can see the writer used two parts of the quote, and blended it with his own words.
  • In the next sentence, the writer used paraphrase.
  • You see he was using the same source, and he got this idea from that source so he also put a citation on this paraphrase.
  • In the next body paragraph, the writer used this source here.
  • In the next body paragraph, the writer used that same source again, but this time, for a quotation.
  • Notice the writer just used a small part of the quote with those very specific words.
  • There’s another source further down in the paragraph.

MLA Format Basics

  • I’m going to show you how to format this paper using MLA format.
  • Right here’s where I want to adjust my settings.
  • I can change from single-spaced to double-space by clicking that, and I want to make sure that both of these are 0s. For many of you, when you’re using Microsoft Word in your country, the defaults here are not 0.
  • There should not be any extra space between the title and the text, so I’m going to take out that extra space there.
  • Well, my title’s on the top line right now so I need to move that down.
  • You’re going to have the student’s name followed by the teacher’s name.
  • I’m going to show you how to write the date correctly, because it’s got to be in a special format.
  • That’s the correct format for writing the date in MLA format.
  • I do want to point out, that over on the right margin here, you see the lines are not even.
  • In some countries it’s correct to use this right here, which is called justify text, and that makes the entire lines equal.
  • Of course in some countries they even write from right to left.
  • In the US, we use left to right and it’s called aligning text left.
  • The next thing we need to do is to put in our page numbers.
  • I like to go up here to Insert and click on Page Numbers.
  • Then you get this little box that opens up here.
  • For MLA format you want your page numbers on the right.
  • We want them at the top of the page not the bottom, so make sure this says Top of page, Right.
  • In MLA, it’s optional, but it’s good just to go ahead and put it on the first page so you can set it up for the rest of the pages.
  • It’s already on all of the other pages as well.
  • Right here before the page number, we need the author’s last name.
  • My cursor is flashing over here, but I want it to flash over here.
  • Now my cursor is flashing here, and I can type my last name.
  • I want it to be just one space away from here, so I’m going to scoot this, drag that and it makes it just now one space between the name and the page number.
  • I’m going to just check to make sure that it showed up on the other pages.
  • Another standard font that you could use, and if I select everything I can come up here and choose Times New Roman.
  • Since I changed my font for the body, I need to go back and change it for the page number as well.

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