|Paper 3 – Synthesis Essay
English 1301: Rhetoric and Composition I
The Rhetorical Situation
For your Discourse Community Analysis, you applied rhetorical concepts to your past experiences in order to explain how you joined a community by learning its distinctive ways of communication. For your Rhetorical Analysis, you prepared to join a new conversation by reading carefully what “they say” about an important topic. Now you are ready to make your own contribution, to take part in the “I say” stage of the conversation.
For this paper, you will take a position on an issue addressed in your topic cluster and write an argument that synthesizes the articles in that cluster. (Synthesis simply means you make connections between multiple sources in order to make a new argument.) Your audience will be readers of a UTA student publication that offers analysis and commentary about politics, news, and culture. Use your knowledge of UTA students: they are educated, generally fair-minded, politically diverse, and less knowledgeable than you about the issue addressed in your topic cluster.
Invention (i.e., discovering what you’re going to say in this paper)
1. Your audience of UTA students will want to know immediately both the conversation you’re responding to and your own position. Furthermore, they will want to know that you are advancing the conversation, turning it in a new direction, rather than just repeating another writer’s argument. Consult Ch. 4 in They Say/I Say for tips on how to formulate your claim as a response to what someone else has written.
2. Of course, UTA students will expect you to support your claim with good reasons, so you should attach at least three reasons to your claim. What makes for a “good” reason? Well, assuming you provide sufficient evidence to support your reasons, would your audience agree to your claim? If so, then you’ve probably selected good reasons. If not, then you may need to select reasons that appeal more effectively to your audience’s values.
3. Speaking of evidence to support your reasons, where will you find it? Certainly your personal experiences, observations, and logical reasoning count as evidence, but you should also mine the articles in your topic cluster for evidence that you can use to support your position.
4. There’s no point in writing an argument that everyone will agree with automatically, so if you’ve constructed a good thesis, some readers will object to some parts of it. Address at least one main counterargument by:
naming and describing your opponent(s).
describing your opponents’ positions fairly and accurately.
making any necessary concessions, i.e., identifying areas of agreement between you and your opponent(s).
responding with a well-considered and reasonable rebuttal.
Pay special attention to Ch. 6 in They Say/I Say for instruction in how to deal effectively with counterarguments.
5. Think about how you’re going to come across to UTA students as a person of good character, good sense, and good will. Here are some tips:
Know what you’re talking about. Read all the articles in your topic cluster as carefully as you read the article for your Rhetorical Analysis, make sure you understand the articles deeply and thoroughly, and use information from the articles to provide sufficient evidence for your reasons.
Show regard for your readers. Try to come across as approachable and thoughtful, not arrogant or insensitive.
Treat skeptical readers with respect—don’t ignore or demean their opinions just because they expect more proof.
Be careful and meticulous in your writing, not sloppy or disorganized.
6. Think about the values and emotions that you share with fellow UTA students and consider how you might appeal to them. Here are some tips:
Draw on the lessons of Ch. 9 in They Say/I Say in order to mix standard written English with “the kinds of expressions and turns of phrase that you use every day when conversing with family and friends” (115). Unlike your first two papers, however, this paper will be written for publication and for readers you don’t know. Thus, you should adopt a more formal style and tone than in your first two papers.
Try to evoke emotions (sympathy, outrage, anger, delight, awe, horror, etc.) in your audience that make your paper more moving.
Try to evoke sensations (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling) in your audience that make your writing vivid and help readers experience things imaginatively.
Appeal to values (freedom, justice, tolerance, fairness, equality, etc.) that you share with your audience.
Arrangement (i.e., organizing what you’re going to say in this paper)
Ultimately, you want to organize your paper in the manner you think will prove most effective with your audience, but here are a couple tips:
Heed the lesson of Ch. 1 in They Say/I Say: “To give your writing the most important thing of all—namely, a point—a writer needs to indicate clearly not only his or her thesis, but also what larger conversation that thesis is responding to” (18). In this case, the conversation you’re responding to is the one constituted by the articles in your topic cluster. Indicate at the beginning of your paper—before you state your thesis—that you’re writing in response to that conversation.
Also mind the lesson of Ch. 7 in They Say/I Say: “Regardless of how interesting a topic may be to you as a writer, readers always need to know what is at stake in a text and why they should care. . . . Rather than assume that audiences will know why their claims matter, all writers need to answer the ‘so what?’ and ‘who cares?’ questions up front” (88-89). Unlike your first two papers, this one is unsolicited, which means you must work harder to demonstrate the exigence for your argument and to attract readers. Providing compelling answers to the “so what?” and “who cares?” has never been more important.
Style (i.e., choosing the appropriate language for your paper)
Once again you’ll be writing to a highly specific audience, so you must continue to avoid writing to some vague, generalized audience. When reading your paper, it should be obvious that you’re writing to fellow UTA students.
As always, heed the lesson of Ch. 9 in They Say/I Say and mix standard written English with “the kinds of expressions and turns of phrase that you use every day when conversing with family and friends” (115). The more important lesson of that chapter is “that your judgments about the appropriate language for the situation should always take into account your likely audience and your purpose in writing” (121). As mentioned earlier, your style should be more formal than in your first two papers, but this does not mean you should write in a pretentious style that is not your own.
All readers appreciate coherent, unified paragraphs, so your paragraphs should include a topic sentence that clearly states the main idea of the paragraph and supporting sentences that cluster around the main idea without detours.
Document your sources properly according to MLA style. Consult The Scott, Foresman Writer for instructions on how to format in-text citations and Works Cited entries.
Proofread carefully; avoid errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and mechanics. Use The Scott, Foresman Writer for questions you have regarding style.
Your paper should be no longer than four pages—anything beyond that length will be considered a failure to adhere to one of the assignment’s basic requirements. It should be double-spaced, typed in Times New Roman font, with 12 point character size and one inch margins all the way around.
Your first submission is due at the beginning of class on _________, and you should think of it as a final draft—something that is ready for publication. If your first submission does not meet every requirement of this assignment sheet, I will return it to you and count it as late. Both your first and final submissions must be turned in on time—you will be docked a full letter grade for each day either is late.
Peer reviews are due _________.
Final drafts are due _________.
Includes a snappy title that catches the reader’s attention and indicates the argument.
Identifies an appropriate topic related to one of the assigned essay clusters.
Indicates that the essay responds to the conversation in the essay cluster.
Includes a contestable, specific, detailed claim about the topic that advances the conversation.
Provides at least three well-developed reasons to support the claim.
Answers the “so what” and “who cares” questions by explaining why the argument is significant and to whom.
Supports reasons with carefully selected, well-developed examples from multiple sources, as well as from personal experiences and observations.
Anticipates counterarguments, considers them carefully, and responds to them fairly, conceding where others are right.
Uses sources effectively and integrates them smoothly, paraphrasing and occasionally directly quoting authorities to help substantiate or support points.
Offers proper attribution to each source cited via in-text parenthetical citation and a correctly formatted Works Cited page.
Comes across as a credible writer, and appeals to the values and emotions of the audience.
Develops a seamless, coherent, and well-organized argument.
Sentences are lively, engaging, and relatively error free.
Essay is 4 pages in MLA Style with Works Cited in 12pt. Times New Roman font with 1-inch margins.
Submitted complete drafts on time. Drafting process shows evidence of revision of content and style.
Provided adequate help to peers during peer review.
Sample Synthesis Essay
Intellectual Diversity: A Means to a Destructive End
The value of higher education is unquestionable, but it is now in jeopardy. Due to the unbalanced ratio of liberal to conservative faculty members in higher education, David Horowitz, founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, has proposed an Academic Bill of Rights in part to “emphasize the value of ‘intellectual diversity.’” Horowitz argues that the central purpose of the university is to pursue the truth and, due to what he calls “the unsettled character of all human knowledge,” the only reasonable way to do so is by offering many different perspectives and maintaining a balance between liberal and conservative faculty members. Although this may appear valid at first glance, those who have a stake in higher education argue that intellectual diversity would greatly limit the quality of education that professors provide by promoting non-academic “values” in academia. For example, in response to Horowitz’s attempts to integrate intellectual diversity into academics, dean Stanley Fish of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Liberal Arts and Sciences asserts that “the value (if it is one) of intellectual diversity should be rejected.” I agree with Fish that intellectual diversity is not an academic value and should therefore be rejected, but I further argue that mandating such a principle would be incredibly detrimental to academics. Classes would be dull, professors would not be allowed to share their expertise with students, and students would not be encouraged to think critically about the opinions of their professors. Obviously these are effects that no UTA student wants.
As a student, I believe that requiring professors to present multiple viewpoints would devalue the curriculum by making it static and, in turn, boring. The most valuable lessons I have had in the classroom have involved biased political statements, particularly in the College of Liberal Arts. In my experience, when professors are passionate about something, their lessons reflect that passion, are more interesting, and students are able to learn from them. For example, in an undergraduate persuasion class, we examined advertisements, many of which were political in nature, to learn effective ways to integrate persuasive principles. Had my professor not chosen liberal advertisements, the lesson would have been less effective because she may not have been as familiar with conservative advertisements and could not as easily have pinpointed effective uses of persuasive techniques. Further, because she was so clearly interested in the lesson, the class as a whole paid more attention and put forth more effort.
Classes that present some form of bias are also more interesting as a result of controversy. Michael Ellis, a student at Dartmouth College, emphasizes that “professors have a duty to inject some degree of controversy into the classroom, if for no other reason than to stimulate a healthy intellectual debate.” If the goal of a university is to pursue the truth, then I see no better way than to bring an intellectual debate into the classroom and invite students to participate (intentionally or unintentionally). Ellis argues that one of the primary duties of higher education is to challenge students by “mak[ing] them reconsider their long-held assumptions, and . . . creat[ing] stronger thinkers in the process.” By involving themselves in the process of discovering truth, students become more connected with their education. This connection helps to establish and promote a dynamic and effective curriculum.
In the same vein, maintaining the freedom that professors have in their classrooms continues to establish them as “experts in their subject matter,” as Ann Marie Bahr, philosophy and religion professor at South Dakota State University, puts it. By integrating multiple perspectives on what should be considered the truth, professors risk calling their authority and expertise into question. That is not to say that students should never question the viewpoints of their professors; it is to say, however, that students should see their professors as experts in their subject matter. Bahr saw the effects of Horowitz’s ideas in her classroom: “For the first time in my life, I felt as if I had to leave my commitment to the truth (which is what scholarship is all about!) at the door of the classroom.” This is just one case of Horowitz’s value of intellectual diversity undermining faculty expertise if, as in Bahr’s case, it is not what the students want to hear. The university community should have confidence that its professors are experts in their fields of study and, as such, are capable of conveying the truth to their students (or pursuing it with them) without having to present multiple viewpoints. Horowitz claims there are many fields of study that rely on the fact that “knowledge is uncertain and, at times, relative” and thus deserve to be challenged, but he fails to acknowledge that these subjects are few and far between. Most subject matters in academia are indeed settled and rely on concrete evidence and facts.
Horowitz argues that implementing this “value” of intellectual diversity works to benefit all faculty members, as it would “remove politics from the classroom . . . [and] explicitly [forbid] political hiring and firing.” While I do agree that hiring and firing should not be based on political agendas, Horowitz’s plan will ultimately resort to political means. Although his plan is apolitical in nature, it is only a matter of time before it becomes politically biased. Horowitz has no ground to support a supposedly apolitical attempt at political reform. Political reform, by definition, has no direction to go but a political one. As Fish declares, “It is just a matter of which party seizes [the value of intellectual diversity] and makes it its own.” Should this ideology fall into the wrong hands, a drive to promote balance in academia may lead to a concentrated effort to hire faculty members on the basis of their politics, rather than their subject matter expertise. What could be more political than that?
In addition to devaluing faculty members in this way, implementing intellectual diversity in academia underestimates the role of students in their own education. The primary goal of a university or college is to enhance the knowledge of the students who attend. Knowledge is best attained when the material can be grappled with and interrogated by students themselves. Michael Ellis, a Dartmouth College student, asserts that the primary goal of a college or university “is to challenge its students intellectually, to make them reconsider their long-held assumptions, and to create stronger thinkers in the process.” Students should be involved in their education. They should not simply be presented with a multitude of viewpoints on a certain topic; they should have the opportunity to question and to come up with their own viewpoints. By being involved in their education, students are more likely to learn the material and grow from the process of learning it. Requiring professors to present multiple viewpoints on a topic sends a signal to students that they do not need to involve themselves in their education, and they will suffer from this. If students are not required to do higher level thinking, their application of knowledge in the real world will suffer.
If the goal of intellectual diversity is to enhance the classroom experience by eliminating partisan politics, it should be rejected on the basis that it would wreak havoc on academia as we know it. Higher education should support the student’s endeavor to pursue the truth; David Horowitz’s notion of intellectual diversity does nothing but disadvantage the student. College level courses should be interesting, and students should be able to question and provide additional information on certain subject matters. Professors should maintain their roles as experts in their fields who are capable of bestowing that expertise on their students. Politics should not be brought into the hiring and firing process, even if the attempt were to be to remove a seemingly political bias. Students need to feel as though they are a part of their education and that their presence in the classroom matters. The “value” of intellectual diversity must be kept out of academia in order to preserve the quality of higher education.
Bahr, Ann Marie B. “The Right to Tell the Truth.” Chronicle of Higher Education 51.35 (2005). Web.
Ellis, Michael J. “Once More unto the Breach.” The Dartmouth Review 8 April 2005. Web.
Fish, Stanley. “’Intellectual Diversity’: The Trojan Horse of a Dark Design.” Chronicle of Higher Education 50.23 (2004). Web.
Horowitz, David. “In Defense of Intellectual Diversity.” Chronicle of Higher Education 50.23 (2004). Web.