2 Synthesis Essay Examples That Have It All Together

Remember those packs of building blocks you used to get as a kid? Each pack contained just enough tiny pieces to construct your favorite superhero, princess, or jet fighter. As a child, you likely relied on the picture on the front of the plastic package, rather than any set of directions, to build your creation. (Directions? Who needs directions?)

Now imagine that the packaging contained no images or directions. Instead, it simply read “Superhero” or “Princess.” It would be up to you to look at the pieces in the package and put together your character. When finished, your superhero might look a bit different than your friend’s, but that’s okay. You used the available pieces to construct your own interpretation.

A synthesis essay is a lot like constructing a character from a package of building blocks. You need to look at all the pieces and see how they fit together to create your argument. Need a little help envisioning what that might look like in an actual essay? Here are two synthesis essay examples that have it all together.

2 Synthesis Essay Examples That Have It All Together

Before we get to the actual nuts and bolts of the examples, take a few minutes to refresh your memory about the key components of a synthesis essay by reading How to Write a Surprisingly Good Synthesis Essay.

Ready to look at the examples? Great!

I’ve included two synthesis essay examples and have inserted comments throughout to help illustrate what works well in each of the essays and what areas are in need of revision.

For both essays, when you see a number in brackets at the end of the paragraphs *[#], my numbered comments apply to each corresponding paragraph.

Synthesis Essay Example #1: A Synthesis Essay on Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye

A synthesis essay examines evidence and draws conclusions based on that evidence.

In this essay, the writer uses evidence from two research sources, as well as evidence from the novel, to argue that Holden Caulfield suffers from major depressive disorder.

Note: This paper uses MLA format. Learn more about proper MLA 8 citation here.

hand holding cigarette

A Synthesis Essay on Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield experiences several drastic changes in his life. As a teenager who was ultimately striving to escape “phonies” and the harsh reality of life, he faces several obstacles, some of which he walked into consciously. Holden experienced a tragic death of his brother, Allie, who he held very dearly and described as joyful and full of life. Allie died when he was quite young, and this incident took a toll on Holden’s mental stability. *[1]

speech bubbleSusan says:

*[1] While the opening paragraph does clue readers in on the focus of the paper, it’s rather dry. To spice up the introduction, the writer might open with a specific scene or quote from Caulfield to help illustrate his mental state.

Learn more about creating effective introductions by reading What’s Missing From Your Introduction (and How to Fix It).

Due to the excessive bereavement that Holden was exposed to, it is quite likely that he suffered from major depressive disorder, which is prevalent through his day-to-day actions and his thoughts. *[2]

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*[2] This thesis statement uses the examples of Caulfield’s bereavement throughout his young life to draw the conclusion that this has led to depression.

This is an effective thesis statement because it helps the audience understand the core argument of this synthesis essay: that Caulfield suffers from major depressive disorder.

As Allie died when he was quite young, the situation came with more grief than what would’ve been if he was old, and expected to pass away. This caused Holden to evaluate his own life. As he grew up, Holden passed the age at which Allie passed away, which only worsened his fears of abandonment of his childhood and death. Holden begins to see himself in Allie during certain parts of his life, and he is crippled with fear of not being to experience life, like Allie. According to Dr. P.G White, one of the effects of sibling loss is “the fear of death led some children to believe that death would come to them next.” In this case, Holden fears that he will suffer the same way Allie did. *[3]

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*[3] Here, the writer succinctly summarizes Caulfield’s thought processes on losing his sibling and examines how this has affected his mental state. The writer then uses a quote from a source to help support the argument that Caulfield is struggling and likely fears his own death.

The writer might further support this section through additional examples and/or evidence from sources to illustrate how such fears can lead to depression in some individuals.

He fears having to step into the world where things are not censored for children, and he is constantly faced with reality. One example of this thought process occurs when Holden aggressively tries to the erase the profanity from the walls of a museum he often visited as child. He states that “you can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any.”  The museum was a cornerstone of Holden’s childhood, and seeing such harsh words all over the walls gives Holden a reality check. He realizes that the darkness of the world will ultimately affect even the most “innocent” parts of one’s childhood, and he isn’t able to cope with this realization. *[4]

speech bubbleSusan says:

*[4] In this section, the writer successfully uses a quote from the novel to illustrate Caulfield’s thoughts and struggles with finding peace. This provides clear insight into the character’s mind and helps further support the claim that Caulfield is depressed.

The writer directly quotes the novel in this paragraph but forgets to include proper citation. An in-text citation (and a Works Cited or Reference page) is required when summarizing, paraphrasing, and/or quoting sources.

To learn more about avoiding plagiarism, read Q&A: What You Should Know About Avoiding Plagiarism.

His childhood friend, Jane, was another part of his “innocent childhood” that came back to haunt him. Holden discovers that Jane had been romantically seeing one of his friends, who was notorious for being sexual with girls. When thinking about Jane in this manner and trying to process that she could’ve done such things, Holden inflicts more pain on himself. He had only remembered her as a little girl who he spent innocent time with in his childhood, and to see even her growing up and partaking in activities meant for adults, makes him feel as if he is being left behind. To make the problem worse, Holden is clearly not ready to let go of his childhood at this point. This notion that Holden has contributes to validating his massive depressive disorder. Holden seems to have given up hope on finding peace, and realizes that there are always obstacles. Unfortunately, he feels as if he cannot face them. *[5]

speech bubbleSusan says:

*[5] This section contains an additional example to illustrate Caulfield’s search for peace and offers additional insight into his mental state. Because he struggles to face life and is unable to move beyond his childhood images, he falls further into depression.

Holden often refers to the ducks in the pond that seemed to know exactly where to go where the pond froze in the winter. Even when he would be having conversations with people, such as Mr. Spencer, his former teacher, he has the ducks in the back of his mind. (Salinger 13). Holden uses the ducks as a symbol of his peers throughout his narration. The ducks always seemed to know where to go, and Holden, looking from the outside, has no idea how or where they would go. This type of feeling is often prevalent in a teenager who is facing the various transitions into adulthood, but Holden was not ready to face this, which only led to further frustration. According to “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” feelings of isolation are symptomatic for massive depressive disorder, and Holden’s consistent mention of the ducks, while he exempted himself from the latter, all contribute to reasserting the point. *[6]

speech bubbleSusan says:

*[6] In this paragraph, the writer combines an example from the novel with an example from outside research to illustrate Caulfield’s depression, his feelings of isolation, and his struggles to find his path in life.

Including both textual evidence and evidence from a source is an excellent strategy. It demonstrates the writer’s ability to examine multiple sources and synthesize them into an argument.

Furthermore, when he is staying at hotel, he invites in a prostitute, but rather than engaging in any sexual activity with her, he merely asks to talk. This shows how lonely and distant Holden was feeling from the masses. He only wanted someone’s company, and was not interested in the common pleasures that a person might desire. This tendency adds to the validation of Holden’s depression. *[7]

speech bubbleSusan says:

*[7] The writer includes a second example from the novel here to further illustrate Caulfield’s depression and feelings of isolation. While this is a good example, the ideas are underdeveloped.

To strengthen this section, the writer could include additional evidence from an outside source to explain how Caulfield’s need to talk and be in another person’s company illustrates his depression.

Holden went through a number of schools and prestigious institutions throughout his life. He would always do really poorly in school, but was apparently intelligent according to his teachers and himself. Holden’s problem with school can be directly attributed to his apathy towards the system. According to DSM, “failing performance and missing school or work” and apathy towards work all indicate severe depression. Another aspect of his behavior with external forces is his tendency to place blame on others. He would constantly talk about the several faults of his friends, peers, and even strangers that he encountered, like the ladies in the bar. He saw himself as being on a higher level of higher, which, according to DSM, could be a form of denial for his own issues, indicating depression. *[8]

speech bubbleSusan says:

*[8] Though this section includes solid examples from both the novel and from a research source, the discussion of both is limited. By including further details of Caulfield’s experiences in school and with friends, the writer would further strengthen the argument.

Holden Caulfield experiences several ups and downs in life. He had to deal with the tragedy of losing a loved one, and also feeling isolated and distant from his peers. All of these unfortunate aspects of his life ultimately contributed to excessive bereavement, which led to major depressive disorder. *[9]

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*[9] The concluding paragraph is adequate, but like the introduction, it’s brief. The writer might use a concluding strategy (like those used in the examples here) to develop a more powerful ending.

Works Cited

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR. American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Little, Brown and Company, 1951.

White, P. Gill. The Sibling Connection–Counseling, Support and Healing Resources for Grieving Sisters and Brothers. 2011, www.counselingstlouis.net/index.html. Accessed 15 Apr. 2015.

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Synthesis Essay Example #2: Assessing the Responsibilities of Private and Federal Organizations in Solving Environmental Problems

This synthesis essay example synthesizes the evidence presented in several sources to examine how both private and federal organizations work (or in some cases, don’t work) toward solving environmental problems.

Note: This essay follows APA format.

hazy industrial smokestacks

Assessing the Responsibilities of Private and Federal Organizations in Solving Environmental Problems

In situations of economic stress or recovery, society has a way of redistributing blame to maintain peace and avoid further conflict. People living in a society feel better if they are under the protective wing of some form of government who can both enforce laws and take responsibility. The government, in turn, will allocate responsibility into specialized organizations. These institutions are granted the power to decide and execute the best methods of solving problems. Some of these institutions, i.e. the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, launch campaigns aimed toward the general public to take personal responsibility for their impact on the environment. At first glance, this may appear to be a means of freeing both government and society from blame. However, the establishment of such organizations distributes responsibility to accomplish a common goal; they try to divide any social concern so that it may be approached from multiple perspectives. This can only increase the probability of success. *[1]

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*[1] The introduction of this essays works well because it provides background information for the readers. This not only informs the audience of how government agencies and society work toward the common goal of protecting the environment but also sets up the focus of the paper.

The goal of this essay is to assess the responsibilities of private and federal organizations, specifically in how they support or impede efforts to solve different environmental problems. *[2]

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*[2] This thesis statement announces the goals of the essay and what the writer hopes to accomplish.

While this type of thesis statement is appropriate for this essay and is often acceptable in scientific papers, keep in mind that most professors in the humanities suggest that you don’t announce goals in a thesis statement by stating “This paper will be about…”

For help with strengthening your thesis statement, read How to Turn a Good Thesis Statement Into a Great One.

The managerial model can be used to describe the processes in constructing social institutions and organizations. The managerial paradigm is a tool for understanding patterns of social behavior and change. When a society is under environmental crisis, the managerial paradigm emphasizes the need for substantial structural change. It is the responsibility of managerial decision-makers to create or maintain major social institutions, like capitalism and local government systems. The decisions made from these organizations are also subject to this model (Humphrey, et al., 2002). *[3]

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*[3] The writer uses the second paragraph of this essay to provide readers with additional background information. Combined with the first paragraph, this section clearly establishes the focus of the essay and lays the groundwork for the essay’s topic.

Also note that the in-text citation at the end of this paragraph has a formatting error (as do all of the in-text citations for sources with more than one author throughout the paper).

Need help with APA in-text citations? Check out this handy infographic with examples.

Davis (2003) describes a smog epidemic that quietly adds to the yearly death tolls in cities around the world. More importantly, he compares the responses and solutions imposed by emergency government and social task forces or lack thereof. The London incidence, which claimed over a thousand lives a week, caught the attention of Parliament and several insurance companies. Unfortunately, managerial concern for this pollution problem did not arise until the consequences became much worse. The managerial method is dictated by reform from within, and the British government conducted studies that would help assess the situation and find the best solution. However, the numbers were muddled with the deaths of people who “would have died anyway” given predictions on past years, making the true smog-related deaths difficult to calculate. Also, the sickness and morbidity rates were not very organized and missing important numbers.  An official report of the London fog was issued two years later naming influenza as the cause of death. Although managerial practices were initially intended, little was changed or implemented to solve the pollution problem. Thus, the managerial practices failed (Davis and Gaynor, 2003). *[4]

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*[4] The previous paragraph describes the managerial process, and in this paragraph, the writer clearly synthesizes evidence from sources to illustrate how the managerial process failed as it relates to smog control.

In the Los Angeles case, the California state government recognized the similarities between the deadly smog incidences in Donora and their own brown haze and issued the first Air Pollution Control Act of 1949. This soon authorized the creation of an Air Pollution Control District in every county in California. By 1954, LA had more cars than any other city in California and pollution was becoming a hot political issue. It had not become a managerial issue until a team led by Lester Breslow, California chief of environmental health, developed methods of dealing with air pollution that is used throughout the world today. California became the first state to impose auto emissions standards car engine tests and severely reduced the state’s air contaminant levels. The state was also first to set up programs for “setting and changing the standards for key air pollutants” (Davis and Gaynor, 2003).  Breslow’s revolutionary approach to solving an environmental problem does the best job of illustrating the managerial paradigm than all of the other cases. By cleaning up the city’s air, Breslow renewed the community’s opinion of regulatory managers and increased political legitimacy during tough times. This gives agency managers greater ability to exercise authority for the benefit of the environment (Humphrey, et al., 2002). *[5]

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*[5] While the previous paragraph illustrates the failings of the managerial paradigm, this paragraph includes an example of the successes of the managerial process.

By including both positive and negative examples of the topic, this writer has provided a stronger discussion that is objective, rather than biased, in its coverage of the topic.

Corporations are also subject to the managerial paradigm, although decision-making and accountability are handled a little differently. Corporations assume no liability and responsibility falls directly upon its shareholders. For the most part, decisions are handled by a board of directors. In a capitalist society, competition is the only driving force for self-improvement. Competition forces corporations to make the best product for the lowest prices for the benefit of the consumer.  Nowadays, that just isn’t enough. When price or quality is similar, consumers tend to favor the corporation that is the most eco-friendly. Animal testing and industrial pollution are now universally frowned upon for any corporation. When found guilty of any anti-environmental deeds, a corporation can decide to settle the matter out of court or organize a committee or agency to solve the problem. In this example, both decision-making and responsibility-reassignment are practiced to demonstrate the fundamentals of the managerial model (Haeckel, 2005). *[6]

speech bubbleSusan says:

*[6] The introduction and thesis indicate that the essay will discuss both government and private examples of the managerial paradigm. Thus, this paragraph follows the thesis and successfully transitions from a discussion of the government to a discussion of corporations.

The paragraph again effectively uses evidence from a source to broadly discuss how corporations handle the managerial paradigm and that they may be forced to litigate to solve potential anti-environmental concerns.

An example found in the text by Robert and Thanos would be the Pemon resistance to the logging and mining companies. Decree 1850 gave foreign industries the right to Colombian land including 40% of the native people’s reserve. CUG electric company planned to build a 470-mile power line would link Brazil and Venezuela with a steady stream of hydroelectric power. Unfortunately, the Guri Power Line would also impact the lives of 24,000 indigenous people, including the native Pemon of Columbia. Environmentalists from the United States argued that the desecration of the Pemon’s sacred land would destroy forests, decrease biodiversity, poison the water supply, and increase erosion. They were also worried that urbanization of local villages would increase crime and introduce prostitution. Activists protested foreign companies in a variety of ways to get their point across. They held over 75 public protests, blockaded highways, and even threatened mass suicide. In 1998, the Pemon and Colombian government came to an uneasy compromise. They agreed that the land be demarcated as sacred land and the Guri Power Line could be constructed, but no industry powered by the line could reside within the National Park borders. The U.S. became involved because they believed that the Pemon held the right to protect their distinctive, 4th-world relations with their land. The Venezuelan corporation, following the managerial paradigm, combated an activist movement, or a civil society organization, whose actions closely resembled that of the radical paradigm (Roberts and Thanos, 2003). *[7]

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*[7] Here, the writer synthesizes information about corporations and includes a specific example to illustrate the general principles discussed in the previous paragraph.

This paragraph (and the preceding paragraph) follows the same organizational pattern as the previous discussion about government agencies. Keeping the organizational pattern consistent creates an easy-to-read and effective argument.

[Five paragraphs omitted]

Institutions that impact the environment range from corporations exploiting natural resources to government issued policies limiting fuel consumption to pro-environmental activists collecting signatures for wildlife conservation.  The paradigms involved range from managerial to radical. The environmental impact may be positive or negative and the actual, physical impact the parties have may vary. The driving forces behind these organizations include profit, responsibility, religion, love, and pure survival. The case studies presented should show how private and federal organizations may contribute to both environment and society. *[8]

speech bubbleSusan says:

*[8] I’ve deleted a few of the body paragraphs of this essay to focus on the conclusion.

Notice that the final words restate the main ideas expressed in the paper, yet they don’t use exact wording from the essay. (Remember, restating ideas is fine, but copying your sentences word for word is not.)

Also, note that this essay presents case studies. It is informational and reports content. Thus, it doesn’t end with a more traditional humanities conclusion that might call readers to action.

Learn more about essay conclusions by reading How to Write a Killer Essay Conclusion.


Diamond, J. D. (2005). Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed. New York, NY: Penguin.

Haeckel, S. H. (2005). Origins and axioms of the industrial age managerial framework. Retrieved from http://www.senseandrespond.com/essays/industrial-age-managerial-paradigm/

Humphrey, C. R., Lewis, T. L, & Buttel, F. H. (Eds.). (2002). Environment, energy, and society: A new synthesis. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Kinder, C. (1998). The population explosion: Causes and consequences. Retrieved from http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/1998/7/98.07.02.x.html

Roberts, J. T., & Thanos, N. D. (2003). Trouble in paradise: Globalization and environmental crises in Latin America. New York, NY: Routledge.

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