Writing about Essays

Graded Assignment

Writing about Essays




A synthesis essay is an essay in which the writer uses various sources — e.g., newspapers and/or magazines, letters and diaries, government documents, court transcripts, essays, and autobiographies — to interpret and analyze a topic (in this case, social trends) and how economic and cultural realities change. In this assignment you will examine six sources to interpret and analyze what effect change has had on your own social, economic, and cultural experiences. Then you will write a synthesis essay, using at least three of these sources in support of your ideas on change.


In this activity, you’ll write the final draft of a synthesis essay examining essays or excerpts from five essays; also included is a visual (Figure 7) that relates to the topic of the five essays found in The Norton Reader.



  1. Read the essay prompts below.
  2. Read the following:
  • Excerpts from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Journals; begin reading with the entry that starts “How sad a spectacle . . . .”
  • “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr.
  • An excerpt from Fred Strebeigh’s “The Wheels of Freedom: Bicycles in China”; begin reading at paragraph 56 and finish the essay.
  • An excerpt from Gloria Steinem’s “The Good News Is: These Are Not the Best Years of Your Life”; begin reading at paragraph 20 and finish the essay.
  • “The Trouble with Wilderness,” by William Cronon.
  • Figure 7 in H. Bruce Franklin’s “From Realism to Virtual Reality: Images of America’s Wars”.
  1. Look for ways you could respond to the prompt, based on these sources. Find and mark passages you could use as evidence in support of a thesis.
  2. Brainstorm a thesis and evidence for your essay. Use all prewriting techniques you find helpful.
  3. Narrow your thesis and organize your evidence.
  4. Write your rough draft.
  5. Revise your draft for content and clarity.
  6. Write a final draft. It should be 2-4 pages (double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font).


Things to keep in mind

    • Come up with a thesis and the evidence you need to support it before you begin writing. This thesis must be specific and arguable: don’t state the obvious. Your thesis should be one or two sentences in length and should state your position clearly.
    • Support your thesis with a close reading and analysis of the texts. Remember to refer to and quote the text when presenting your evidence. You may use either the source number assigned to a particular source as noted below, or you may cite the author of the essay used.
    • Organize your evidence into paragraphs that each have one controlling idea. Sum up this idea with a topic sentence.
    • Make sure your sentences are linked with clear transitions.
    • Make sure your summary recounts your thesis and your supporting arguments.


Essay Question


Even though all of us experience change and growth in our daily lives, scholars and philosophers constantly examine the positive, negative, or mixed effects of change and growth on the social, cultural, and economic life of human beings. Some of these thinkers present these transformations as primarily positive processes. On the other hand, other scholars and philosophers debate whether some or all social, cultural, and economic change is negative. Still others explore both the positive and negative facets of this frequently revisited discussion. What is your opinion concerning whether change, as presented by the scholars and philosophers portrayed in your reading, are negative or positive or both?


Remember that your essay should synthesize at least three of the sources for support and take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that change is good, bad, or both. You may refer to the sources by their titles (Source A, Source B, etc.) or by the descriptions in parenthesis.


Source A (Emerson)

Source B (Carr)

Source C (Strebeigh)

Source D (Steinem)

Source E (Cronon)

Source F (Figure 7)


To write this synthesis essay you will need to consider carefully your own thoughts on the need for change. Then, considering the information in the passages and your own knowledge, you will need to form an argument about the need for change.


Remember to use the sources to support your position. Do not focus your essay on the paraphrasing or summarizing of the sources. Your position should be the focus; the sources should be support.


Your introduction should have a thesis that clearly states your position whether change is good, bad, or both in human lives. The body of your essay should include paragraphs that support your position. Remember that at least three sources must be cited in the essay. You are also expected to use your own opinions for support, and remember to support your opinions with concrete details.


To complete this activity, first carefully read the essay question. Then, before you read the sources, activate your own prior knowledge and opinions regarding whether change is good, bad, or both. While you’re reading the sources, make sure to take notes on your interpretations, questions, and reactions. Some questions to consider as you read are:


  • What do these passages have in common?
  • How many main ideas do these sources explore? What are these ideas?
  • What contradictions, if any, are apparent in these sources?
  • How many sources will I use in my essay?
  • How will I cite these sources in my essay?
  • How will I synthesize these sources into a coherent argument?


After you have thought about these questions in relation to the sources, create a thesis statement that states your position, either defending, challenging, or qualifying the idea that change is good, bad, or both, and state two to four reasons for that position that you will use to support your argument.


Next consider the evidence you will use to support your position. Remember your evidence can be your own opinion (supported with concrete detail) and/or evidence from the six sources.


Then start your essay.


Last Updated on February 11, 2019 by EssayPro