Learning Objectives

  • Explain synthesis

What is Synthesis?

Synthesis is the combining of two or more things to produce something new. When you read and write, you will be asked to synthesize by taking ideas from what you read and combining them to form new ideas.

Analyzing consists of breaking something down into its parts and examining it closely. For example, you can break down a pizza into its ingredients. Synthesizing, on the other hand, consists of combining ideas to form new ones. So in the pizza example, you could break down the ingredients, then you can take those same ingredients and create something new, like a calzone.

Synthesizing is also different from summarizing; while summarizing consists of restating someone’s ideas in as few as words as possible, synthesizing means taking those ideas and creating new ones.

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Synthesis in Writing

Synthesis is something you already do in your everyday life. For example, if you are shopping for a new car, the research question you are trying to answer is, “Which car should I buy”? You explore available models, prices, options, and consumer reviews, and you make comparisons. For example: Car X costs more than car Y but gets better mileage. Or: Reviewers A, B, and C all prefer Car X, but their praise is based primarily on design features that aren’t important to you. It is this analysis across sources that moves you towards an answer to your question.

Early in an academic research project, you are likely to find yourself making initial comparisons—for example, you may notice that Source A arrives at a conclusion very different from that of Source B—but the task of synthesis will become central to your work when you begin drafting your research paper or presentation.

Remember, when you synthesize, you are not just compiling information. You are organizing that information around a specific argument or question, and this work—your own intellectual work—is central to research writing.


synthesis: the combining of two or more things to produce something new