Argumentative Synthesis

Argumentative Synthesis

Your fourth major writing assignment is an argumentative synthesis of at least two and no more than three articles from any unit of They Say/I Say.   You’ll have noticed that each unit in the book addresses one general issue, with several smaller issues within each unit, each with multiple articles presenting multiple perspectives on the issue.  For example, we read Balko and Zinczenko for Paper II; they disagreed with each other.  This is the kind of pairing you’re looking for for your argumentative synthesis.  Feel free to choose articles we’ve already worked with; find what interests you most, what you can invest in and argue for.

You will choose an issue from the textbook, look at the articles that address that issue, and then form an argument that takes a stand on the issue.  Your thesis statement should support one side or the other or put forth an interesting third perspective.  In any case, your thesis should be clear, specific, and arguable.

In addition to your two opposing articles, you will need at least two more sources: one scholarly, peer-reviewed source; the other can really be anything:  another article from the book, a news or magazine article, blog post, or even a film, video, photo, etc.  In total, you’ll have four sources:  your two original, disagreeing articles, one scholarly source, and one other source of your choosing.

In an argumentative synthesis you present information as fairly as possible (as you did in the explanatory synthesis), but your evaluation of the sources (your critique) will help you take a position on the issue that they address.  You will be arguing for a position on the basis of a reasonable consideration of the information and arguments presented by your sources.  Be mindful that your own argument will require that you make an explicit claim, present adequate support for it, and articulate your assumptions so that the relationship between your claim and its support is apparent (see ASAW pages 64-67, 122-124, and 149-150).

This major writing assignment requires that you put into practice the other skills you have heretofore acquired.  In your essay, you will be expected to present information from these sources accurately and briefly (summarize), explain how the sources relate to each other (synthesize), and evaluate the rhetorical elements that the sources use to persuade readers (critique).  Moreover, you will now look to promote a particular position, or argue for it.  Your support for a particular position should be based on the overall consideration of the reasonableness of the argument your sources present and on your awareness of the consequences that position may entail.

This essay also requires that you contribute original ideas to inform the debate or enhance the understanding of your research topic.  You do this by gathering information, considering its validity, endorsing it or rejecting it accordingly, and challenging those sources with your own questions on the matter.  This rhetorical stance should lead you to take an active role in establishing the direction of the “conversation” and communicating the importance of the research to your readers.  As you did in the previous writing assignment, you will be evaluating sources on the basis of the information and arguments they presented, but you will also be trying to ask and to answer questions your sources are not considering but should.

Once you have begun your research and have a sense of the issue/topic, begin by asking yourself the following questions:  Is there a perspective/solution that is not being considered?  What’s so particular about the nature of the issue or the way the scholars talk about it?  How did this problem/issue come about?  What else do we need to know in order to endorse a position?  Why should this issue/topic matter to the readers of my essay?

Be mindful that your own argument will require that you make an explicit claim (thesis) and present adequate support for it.  You will also need to engage in analysis—an explanation of how something works (or acquires meaning) on the basis of its particular features (see ASAW pages 178-180, 182-186, and 188-189).

With this in mind, your essay should consider how authors establish their relationship with the reader on the basis of linguistic and imagistic means, present information in a particular order, make use of particular types of evidence, and rely on a particular line of reasoning (logical arguments or logical fallacies) to persuade readers.

Research your topic to get an angle on it and form an opinion.  Use library resources to find scholarly, peer-reviewed work that is relevant to your topic and useful to the formation of a thesis statement.

Form a working thesis, an original idea or opinion which you are contributing to the discussion of your topic, informed by your reading.

Introduce the main argument to which you are adding your voice.  Identify the authors to whom you are responding, and briefly outline their main positions and how they relate to one another.  Only introduce the biggest players here; no need to summarize every source you draw on in your paper.  The point of the introduction is to get your reader up to speed on the general argument in an engaging and concise manner.  The intro should contain a strong, clear thesis statement conveying your take on the topic.

The Body
The body is where you will prove your thesis, drawing on your reading and research by arguing for, against, or in qualification of the arguments you’ve so far encountered.  This section should seamlessly blend both critique and response.  Focus on presenting good reasons for your thesis, backed up by evidence and explanation.

The Conclusion
End with something memorable.  What about the topic caught your attention?  Why does it matter?  Use the conclusion to recall the point you’ve made in your paper as well as the authors or articles to which you’ve responded, but focus on going one step further into the reasons for your paper.

Citation Style
Use MLA style to attribute information and expression of ideas to your sources.  Every time you quote or paraphrase from the sources provide the corresponding parenthetical citation.  The last page of your essay should be a “Works Cited” page, which, as the name indicates, lists the sources to which you made reference in your essay.