Monday, February 17, 2014

Synthesis, Synthesis Why Do I Care?


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We synthesize all the time.

When you have a conversation with a friend about something your other friends have said about that certain someone, that's a synthesis.

When you are given an assignment that asks you to use "at least one quote" to support your opinion, that's a synthesis.

When you go on RateMyProfessor to find reviews of a specific professor in order to decide whether to take his or her class, that's a synthesis.

When you read or watch the news, surf the internet, or your favorite video channel, and then form a new opinion, that's a synthesis.

Every one of the posts on this blog are a synthesis.  I'm not reinventing the wheel here, I just look for articles that might interest college students, or help them understand a concept better, and then add my own "two cents", as my father would say.

But let's take a closer look at the definition of an academic synthesis from Drew University:
"Although at its most basic level a synthesis involves combining two or more summaries, synthesis writing is more difficult than it might at first appear because this combining must be done in a meaningful way and the final essay must generally be thesis-driven. In composition courses, 'synthesis' commonly refers to writing about printed texts, drawing together particular themes or traits that you observe in those texts and organizing the material from each text according to those themes or traits.
"Sometimes you may be asked to synthesize your own ideas, theory, or research with those of the texts you have been assigned. In your other college classes you'll probably find yourself synthesizing information from graphs and tables, pieces of music, and art works as well." 
Many times when you are handed an assignment you will be synthesizing ideas towards a goal--the thesis or main idea.  As you read you will gain new perspectives on the main idea, which in turn can lead you to an original way of looking at the subject or a new line of thinking (thesis), that helps you achieve better insight into your subject and a new and interesting way to approach your paper.

Say your assignment asks "How has and does the popular press portray African Americans?"As sources for the paper the professor assigns articles on Frederick Douglass and his views about how African Americans were illustrated in the popular press of his day.  You would do a synthesis directed towards Douglass' views and think about connections to portrayals of African Americans in today's press.  Along the way you come up with some fresh insight into a subject you may not have thought much about. Once you weave your own thoughts into the conversation, that's academic writing.

See how this blog post is a synthesis?  First, there were a few examples of everyday synthesis, then there was a formal definition of synthesis.  The formal definition led to how a synthesis may create better insight, and finally, there was an example of how synthesis works in college assignments.

What kinds of assignments do you receive that ask you to synthesize?  What kind of everyday synthesis sources do you use to make decisions?