Rhetorical Synthesis

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A synthesis essay is a piece of writing in which the author a) thoughtfully discusses how different ideas or arguments from multiple sources compliment or challenge each other and b) reflects on the question of why the authors of these texts make different composing decisions or employ different rhetorical strategies because of their various audiences, contexts, genres, and purposes. A really successful synthesis essay will also c) explain how an analysis of multiple sources helps the writer better understand the single issue, question, or problem all of his/her sources address.

For WP2, please choose two pieces of writing from our technology unit, which includes Freakonomics episode #144: “Who Runs the Internet?”; Koppell’s “On the Internet, There’s No Place to Hide;” Simpson’s “Multitasking State of Mind;” and McCafferty’s “Brave New Social World.” If you prefer, you may pair one of our unit’s required readings with one that you find on your own. If you do decide to choose a new work for the second piece of writing, make sure that it comes from a reputable source and be sure to show a copy of the new text to your instructor in advance of writing the essay to secure approval.

Then, in a 5-7 page essay that follows MLA format and citation style, please analyze an issue by synthesizing the ideas of your two sources. Keep in mind that one key to writing a good synthesis essay is to move beyond the descriptive or summary-based compare/contrast model and to instead critically analyze specific choices writers make and to thoughtfully discuss the effects of these choices. In other words, you shouldn’t just tell your readers what an author does or says; rather, you should incorporate and analyze textual evidence from your sources in an effort to explain how a writer communicates certain ideas and why you think the writer makes the composing choices (s)he does. Also, you should thoughtfully reflect on why the differences between your sources matter with regard to your attempt to understand the issue, question, or problem your sources address.

Some things to consider:

  • In the introductory paragraph of your essay, you should clearly explain the issue you will be taking on, explain why it matters, introduce the two sources you’ll discuss, and include a thesis that highlights the relationship you see between the sources.
  • In your body paragraphs, you should rhetorically analyze your sources: what do the authors say, how do they say it, andwhy do they say it this way? It’s critically important to thoroughly and thoughtfully discuss our rhetorical analysis terms: logos, ethos, pathos, audience, context, and purpose. Remember, too, that the goal here isn’t necessarily to determine which authors are right or wrong; instead, you’re analyzing how the conversation around a question/problem is conducted.
  • Remember to use textual evidence to support all of your interpretive claims. Don’t just tell your readers that Source A uses pathos because the audience would respond better to emotional appeals; show me what in Source A qualifies as pathos, show me what in the text makes you think the intended audience is X, and so on.
  • The body paragraphs are also the place where you can play devil’s advocate: what are some reasonable critiques of each of your sources? How/why might reasonable people disagree with certain claims made by your sources? Why do you think the authors of your sources didn’t discuss certain things (be specific)? How might these critiques help you find new sources?
  • Additionally, toward the end of this essay, you should try to discuss how an analysis of your sources has changes the way we think about the issue (or some aspect of it), explain what new questions have emerged (what needs to be further explored in order to better understand this issue?) and explain what types of new research would be needed to supplement the two you analyzed here.
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Last Updated on October 23, 2019 by EssayPro