Writing a Multiple-Source (Synthesis) Essay

Part Two



To develop a body paragraph, follow a basic "three-step" approach:

1.)  Decide on a main point and then state that main point in a sentence (the topic sentence for the paragraph).  For example:

2.)  Next, reread the essays looking for “evidence” to use to support your main idea.  For example:

3.)  Finally, you don’t want to abruptly end your paragraph and just leave the examples, summaries, or quotes just hanging there.  You want to “drive home” your point, emphasize what is important about it, add your own commentary (thoughts, feelings, opinions) or your own experiences about the main idea and/or the examples.

For more information and examples (from a different essay) about developing paragraphs, click here.



Whenever you use someone else's words or ideas in your writing, you must let the reader know the source of those words or ideas.  It really doesn't matter whether you have paraphrased, summarized, or quoted -- in each case, you must let the reader know whose material you are using.

Up to this point, your writing assignments have focused on one reading selection at a time.  In them you have used simple transitions to tell the reader when you were using material from the reading selection.  There are, however, more formal methods of documentation that you will need to learn to use as you write in college classes.

The MLA (Modern Language Association) is one method of documentation, used primarily in the humanities.  It uses parentheses within the paper to identify the author and page number of a particular passage that is paraphrased, summarized, or quoted.  It also uses a separate page at the end of the paper to give more detailed and complete identification of the sources used.  Because we are using "common texts" in this class -- texts that everyone has, either from our book or on handouts I have provided -- you do not need to write a separate "Works Cited" page for this paper.

Use these guidelines to help you:



You have three choices when you take someone else’s words / ideas from their writing to put into your own writing:

1.) QUOTATION: copy the words and punctuation exactly like it is in the other writer’s essay; be extremely accurate; use quotation marks.

2.) SUMMARY: you use your own words to “shrink” down another writer’s ideas to the main things you want to highlight or emphasize; even though you use your own words, you must still give credit to the writer.

3.) PARAPHRASE: you use your own words to “translate” or “restate” more clearly another writer’s ideas; your paraphrase should be roughly the same length as the passage you are paraphrasing; you will need to change both many of the words and the sentence structure(s) of the passage you are paraphrasing; even though you use your own words, you must still give credit to the writer.


Finally, there are three steps to take to put a summary, a paraphrase, or a quotation into your paper:

1.)  First, use a “signal phrase.”  Here, you are giving credit to the person who the words/ideas belong to and you are “signaling” to your reader that you are putting something in your paper that doesn’t belong to you.  Examples of signal phrases include “According to Annie Dillard, ...” or “As George Orwell says, ...” or “Susan Allen Toth states that ...

2.)  Second, put in the summary, paraphrase, or quotation.  (You can also use a combination of summary, paraphrase, and quotation.)

3.)  Third, use a “parenthetical citation.”  If you have put the author’s name in your sentence, all you need in the citation is the page number, for example (16).  If you did not put the author’s name in your sentence, then include the name with the page number, for example (Dillard 16).