Spicing Up the Synthesis Essay

1. Talk to your sources. Don’t just throw a quote in; acknowledge the author or speaker of the quote, possibly including their credentials (Ethos!).  Discuss whether their ideas are right or wrong, and be specific about why you think so.  Don’t try to create a single, smooth narrative. Instead, compare sources’ ideas to your own and to one another to support your argument.

2. Don’t be afraid to use your own experience as a source. You need to use three sources from the packet, but if you have personal experience of the topic, there’s no reason to discount that.

3. Paraphrase: Only use a direct quote if the SPECIFIC LANGUAGE of the quote is especially cool. If it’s just the idea that’s useful, a paraphrase is more effective.  (Use an in-text citation anyway–if the idea isn’t yours, you have to give credit to the author.)

4. Use adverbs and interesting verbs to introduce quotes and paraphrases: say “[author] wrongly suggests that…” or “[author] fervently argues that…”  instead of just “He said…”  (Check out this list of adverbs, and this list of verbs to use instead of “said” if you’d like help with this!)

5. Use sources you don’t agree with and refute them. Don’t just say “many adults think….” Say “Meghan Gurdon thinks….” This gives you someone specific to discuss, which strengthens your arguments by helping you avoid broad generalizations. It also avoids bias because you provide evidence from your opposition.

6. Avoid logical fallacies. Never misrepresent your sources. Always attack their strongest, not their weakest points. Address their ideas with logic, facts, and well-reasoned arguments.

7. Start with your least strong idea; end with the strongest part of your argument. If you’re conceding a point, do that in the first body paragraph. If you’re refuting instead, then let that be the last body paragraph.


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