Essay Two

Essay Two: Synthesis


Percy and Freire, each in their own way, ask us to consider the problem of authority within educational systems or experiences. Write an essay that synthesizes their thinking, explaining how they both investigate the nature of this problem, examine its consequences, and offer solutions.

As the name suggests, synthesis essays focus on combining and connecting. Your focus in a synthesis essay is to explain to your audience the ways in which two or more arguments or ideas relate to one another.

Students attempting synthesis for the first time often make the mistake of organizing their essays by source. For example, they will introduce two authors in their introduction, summarize Author A, summarize Author B, then conclude by noting the broad similarities and differences in the two authors’ thinking. This is not synthesis.

In a synthesis essay you should try to organize your essay by topic or questions at issue rather than by sources. Rather than try to summarize the essays separately, a synthesis will attempt to discover the various things that the authors discuss—the questions, ideas, and arguments they have in common—then present those things in an organized and meaningful way. Thus, your objective in a synthesis is to bring two or more distinct sources into a relationship by explaining to your reader the various ways in which the sources are in dialogue.

To begin a synthesis, ask yourself the following questions about the readings you plan to synthesize:

What are the positions, arguments, and ideas that the source materials have in common? Are the authors all concerned about the same problem(s)? Are their arguments similar or do they differ? What reasoning supports their arguments? Do they offer similar conclusions or are there significant differences?

After answering these questions exhaustively, write an essay that examines the relationship between the various authors’ arguments, comparing and contrasting their views.

Synthesis is very textual in nature: you must show explicit textual evidence for each of the claims you attribute to the other authors. Using summary, paraphrase, and quotation, compare and contrast the authors’ positions; make sure to cite each of these appropriately. Use clear signal phrases to transition between your presentations of the various author’s ideas or works. We will do some work during upcoming workshops to think about structure, content, and strategies for writing.

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