Synthesis: Definition & Meaning

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  • 0:00 Synthesis Defined
  • 0:40 Literature Example
  • 1:45 Writing Example
  • 2:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: James Greaver

Jim has a master's degree in secondary Education and has taught English from middle school level to college.

In this lesson, we look at the word ''synthesis''. We consider what it means and how it is used in writing and literature. We also look at a few examples of synthesis in both cases.

Synthesis Defined

In general, the word synthesis means to take some things and make them into a new thing. Sounds really technical, huh? Well, that's the simplest way to explain it, and here is how it might look:

You take several pages of written information and put them together in an orderly fashion. Then you put all of those pages between two heavier covers and bind them together and you have created, or 'synthesized', a book!

Now, this is obviously very simplistic, but the idea is the same anytime you use synthesis as a compositional or literary device, you are taking parts and putting them into a new whole. Now, let's see how that might look as applied to literature.

Literature Example

When you are reading a good story you will typically take in the information you are reading about and create in your mind a picture of what you are considering (there are other types of synthesis in literature, such as forming opinions, generating ideas, etc., but for this illustration, we'll stick with forming images in one's mind).

For example, I recently finished reading the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, entitled Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins. As I read the book, my natural inclination was to consider things, such as the way the characters described their surroundings and how they reacted to them, and pair that with my own knowledge of shapes, landscapes, types of plants and animals, etc. I did this to come up with a picture in my mind of how the game arena might have appeared.

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