Your third major writing assignment is an argumentative synthesis on the topic of your choosing. Your topic, preferably, should be related to your major [or a major that your are considering] or another academic topic of interest to you. You should be careful to choose a topic that will invite multiple (more than two) solutions and/or arguments and that you feel you can evaluate in an unbiased manner. You have two options for how to approach the topic of this paper. You can either (1) chose a problem whose possible solutions you will then research and evaluate in order to develop and argue for your own solution or (2) chose an ongoing academic argument whose various positions you will then research and evaluate in order to develop and propose your own argumentative position on the topic. The goal of this paper is to carefully consider and explain possible solutions to a problem or positions on an ongoing argument and then to make an argument in favor of your solution or position.
A Word about Selecting Topics: Your topics will need to be fairly narrow in order to adequately complete the objectives of this paper. Broad topics like “ecofriendly houses” or “immigration,” will not allow you to discuss your topic in enough depth to do well on this assignment. You will need to do a little preliminary research in order to find a good topic and an approach for this paper. This preliminary research can (and probably should) involve non-peer reviewed sources like Wikipedia (to give you back ground on your potential topic) or blog posts (to give you an idea of what people are saying about your topic), but these are not appropriate sources for the final paper. You may, however, use these types of sources in your preliminary research in order to help you narrow your topic.
Once you have begun your preliminary research and have a sense of the issue/topic, ask yourself the following questions: Is there a perspective/solution that is not being considered? Whats 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? Use these answers to help guide your research into peer reviewed sources.
Restricted Topics: Because the goal of this paper is for you to find and evaluate ideas that are at least somewhat new to you and develop your own argument about those ideas, you will not be allowed to write about any topics that are popular in public discourse and, therefore, have over simplified, pre-fab arguments (abortion, gun rights, gay marriage, US-Mexico wall, religion,…basically any topic that has a well-known “Republican” and “Democrat” side should probably be avoided). If you REALLY want to use a topic you think may be off-limits, talk to me about it, and we will see if we can develop a research question around the topic that will avoid the pitfalls of the ready-made arguments.
Once You Begin Researching: You will need to thoroughly research your topic in order to find 8-10 sources, at least two of which must be peer reviewed sources. These sources should not only treat the topic of your paper, but should also be focused on your specific facet of the topic. If the goal of this assignment is to “join the conversation” about your topic, you need to make sure that all of your sources are participating in the same conversation. You will also need to present the sources for my approval in class, prior to writing your paper.
Additional Information about the Assignment: In an argumentative synthesis, you present information as fairly as possible 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 clear.
This major writing assignment requires that you put into practice the other skills you have already 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.