At the end of WR 112, students will write a formal, argument-driven synthesis essay on the longer work in combination with two of the short, anthologized essays that have been assigned. (Consult the sidebar here for notes on the essays and a list of the longer works currently used in WR 112.) Scaffold the assignment with a series of reading journals, summaries, claim-writing workshops, and other pre-writing assignments as you see fit, and walk students through a process of peer review for their essay. For this final paper in the course, you should allow students to bring any two texts you have read into conversation with the longer work, and students should be developing claims with much more independence than earlier in the semester.


to write a compelling argument-driven academic analysis (synthesis) with three sources; to use effective and logical paragraphs, transitions, organization, and topic sentences to develop your argument and move back and forth between your sources; to use appropriate evidence (quotations) from your sources with MLA-style in-text citation and a final list of works cited to support your argument; to edit and proofread your essay effectively; to produce a 4-5 page paper (1,200-1,500 word) academic paper that will be turned in as the core part of a final portfolio.

Key Terms

analysis; argument; synthesis

Assignment Template

    You will develop your own topic for this essay in consultation with me, based on our class discussions and your expert team’s research.

    Your essay must have the following elements:

    • introduction with brief identification of the authors and works
    • thesis statement/claim (arguable, supportable, and carefully worded)
    • interesting and informative title, related to your claim
    • strong transitions and topic sentences
    • effective support for your claim (with quotes and explication)
    • conclusion which answers the “so what?” question
    • MLA-style citations and Works Cited list

    The task here is to bring together your chosen authors to engage in a larger conversation.  Think about what the authors might have to say to each other.

    • Is one piece an example of the argument another makes? 
    • Does one treatment support or undermine an argument/perspective put forth by the others? 
    • What might reading them together reveal about the theme itself? 

    Remember that a claim is the answer to a problem that shows your reader why the claim matters. To get to this problem, ask yourself some questions: 

    • How does each text treat your chosen theme? 
    • Why does this theme seem significant or productive?
    • Does reading the three works provide new insights about how they treat your chosen theme? 
    • In other words, what’s at stake here?

    Because the longer work is one that we read together and examined step by step, it should be the starting point and foundation for your argument, although the other texts should figure significantly. When you initially introduce your texts, make sure to give your reader a brief but comprehensive summary of the salient points based on the analysis you are making. Remember that you do not have to completely agree or disagree with your texts. Look at They Say/I Say Chapter 4 for various ways to respond to others’ arguments. The more interesting arguments are those that are nuanced rather than absolute. 

    When quoting, make sure your quotes (both in-text and block ones are required for this paper) are accurate and complete and their context is clear.  Pay close attention to voice markers so that it is clear to the reader whose argument is being presented.  Again, look at Chapter 5 in They Say/I Say for suggestions on how to identify speakers in your argument; you will be juggling four different voices here (the longer work, the two essays, and your own ideas), so it is critical that your reader knows whose point you are presenting at any given time.

    Scaffolding Assignment Options

      Note: Instructors may choose one or more of these options to assign as pre-writing homework and/or to work through together in class. Different instructors lead students to this assignment in different ways. You may also wish to use this handout of tips for a synthesis paper to help students think about one approach to paper structure

      Option 1: Thematic connection brainstorming

      1. In small groups, refresh your memories: what were all of the essays we read this semester from our anthology?
      2. Brainstorm a list of the themes we discovered in each of the essays we read and write it down the left side of a piece of paper.
      3. On the right side, write the themes we have identified in the longer work so far.
      4. Draw arrows to connect them to corresponding themes in the essays.
      5. Choose 2-3 themes to look at more closely in your group: what quotes from the longer work jump out at you as connecting to these themes? What connections to the shorter essays seem most fruitful? What are you noticing at this point in your analysis?

      Option 2: Theme-based group mini presentations

        While you read the longer work, and while you develop your ideas for your paper, you will hear mini presentations from your classmates about different themes in the longer work and possible connections to other texts. These presentations:

        • are more traditional in nature than your previous presentation,
        • will be done in groups of 2-3 students,
        • will take up 5-8 minutes of class time, and
        • will involve a handout given to the class with four or more quotes from the book and three or more quotes from other writers we have read.

        Each group will have a theme assigned to them, and in the process of preparing their presentations will become experts on this theme in the longer work. You are welcome to use ideas and quotes from any of these presentations–even those your classmates have given–in your essay. Your job when delivering these mini-presentations is to raise questions and possible connections to other texts–you do not need to have a definite claim or a single unified final interpretation.

        Option 3: Reading journals

        Leading up to the final paper assignment in this class is a series of short, ½ page – 1 page analytical “reading journal” assignments. You should think of the journals as chances to work through an interesting or complex passage, try out a possible connection to another text, or otherwise pursue a possible topic for your final essay. Your journals should be thoughtful, specific (including a quote, with proper citation), and analytical. Your work on these journals, and my comments on them, will help point you in useful directions for your essay. Of course, you may also see a Writing Center tutor as you work on your journals and essay draft.

        1. Journals can be short–no longer than one page double-spaced.
        2. should not summarize/re-tell the story.
        3. Journals should not plagiarize: using phrases or sentences from “reader’s notes” sites or online book reviews is, as should hopefully be evident, not acceptable.
        4. Journals should not focus primarily or exclusively on similes, descriptive language, or other stylistic/rhetorical features of the text.

        When writing your final paper, you may use the same connecting author(s), same theme, and some of the same passages as you have already used in your journal entries; indeed, you may use entire paragraphs of analysis from your journal entries (if they are useful, relevant, and analytical) in your essay. Obviously, you will revised the journal entries, removing what is irrelevant to the final version of your claim, but please mine your journals for material for your essay.

        You will have a reading journal due in class every day that there is a reading assignment due in the longer work. For the first five minutes of class you will work in the same group of 3-4 students each day to briefly share what you wrote in your journals. Rather than exchanging papers and reading your peers’ writing, though, for now you should just discuss the reading, your points of interest and of confusion, and your possible connections or ideas for your final paper.

        • Did you not quite something in part of the reading for the day? Ask your group to fill you in.
        • Do you have an idea for a connection to another text but worry it is too far-fetched? Ask your group what they think of your idea.
        • Are you completely stuck for connections to other texts and possible paper topics? Ask your group for help.

        Option 4: Proposal/Prospectus

        In preparation for your final paper, you will draft and hand in a proposal. The proposal will take the form of a letter and will consist of two parts.

        In Part 1 of the letter, you will:

        • explain why you chose the three texts,
        • describe what you have decided to argue in your paper, and
        • submit a draft of your claim.

        In Part 2, you will:

        • list the reasons you believe your claim to be true, and
        • include a few of the passages you have selected to support your argument (with page references).

        The letter will help you organize your thoughts for your most ambitious paper so far, and will also allow me to make sure that you are on the right track.