Writing Assignment #3 will be a synthesis essay, a format that is sometimes referred to as a literature review.
KEY IDEA: This essay will NOT be like the typical one you have written in the past where you take position and assemble supporting evidence in order to convince your reader that your conclusion is correct. Now, you will assume that your reader, like you, is already familiar with your topic AND is about to launch a new, in-depth research project on it. However, your reader wants to avoid wasting time and effort. Therefore, he/she wants YOU to assemble, evaluate, compare and contrast the existing, published scholarly research on the topic. Your essay’s conclusion will present your findings ABOUT THE RESEARCH ARTICLES, not about the topic itself.
With your conclusions in hand, your reader will be able to avoid wasting time on articles that lack credibility, or that are based on inadequate data analysis, or that have been discredited by subsequent scholars. He/she will be able to go directly to the best publications on the topic and use them as a foundation for the new project intended to advance knowledge on the topic.
Your job is to convince your reader that you have really discovered and analyzed the most important published articles, compared them to each other and drawn intelligent conclusions about them.
Your synthesis essay should be organized in the following manner:
- Introduction: Write one or two paragraphs in which you introduce the reader to your topic.
- Body — the categories into which you are dividing the literature: Divide your sources into a few categories. A suggestion is that you divide them into three to five categories.
- Conclusion: Summarize what the literature says on your topic.
- This semester, you have critiqued an author’s analysis in the critique essay and have critically evaluated several articles in the annotated bibliography. In this assignment you will synthesize the ideas of several authors in a synthesis essay, or literature review.
- For your annotated bibliography, you selected a topic based on your interests and, possibly, your major. You constructed a list of 12 references and summarized and critically analyzed them in 150-200 words each.
Through this process, you may have seen patterns in the scholarly literature in the topic on which you conducted research. For example, consider the following examples:
- You may have researched studies in ________ and found that there are varying opinions on key concepts and proposed solutions.
- You may have researched studies in ________ and found that scholars disagree sharply about strategies for __________ and subtopics tend to fall into four categories.
- You may have researched ______ and discovered that there are discrepancies between one important study and another, or between one set of statistics and another.
- You may have researched articles on _______ and found studies that answered three basic questions on ________ but they all appeared to ignore______, which—in your opinion—represents an important oversight.
In the synthesis essay, you will focus your research efforts in a particular area, perhaps as a response to what you found while writing the annotated bibliography. You will then conduct more research and synthesize your findings in this synthesis essay.
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