Assignment #2: Synthesis Essay
For your second assignment, you will write a synthesis essay about a current controversial
topic in society. You can choose your own topic, or you can choose a topic based on the
readings in They Say, I Say (TSIS):
• How Can We Bridge the Differences that Divide Us? (pp. 209-313)
• Is College the Best Option? (pp. 315-419)
• Are We in a Race Against the Machine? (pp. 421-529)
• What’s Gender Got to Do with It? (pp. 531-619)
• What’s There to Eat? (pp. 621-729)
For a synthesis essay, you are NOT arguing a certain position; you are just informing the
reader about a current debate. Therefore, do not show your opinion or bias in the paper.
Show all sides of the issue, not just the ones that you agree with. You are recreating a
debate without taking a side, so the paper is informative (not argumentative) since you are
simply informing the readers about a current controversy. It’s as if you are in a room with
all of the authors and you listen to them debate each other. Your job is to retell the
argument that you heard. Since you are simply reporting what other people have said, you
will be using many signal phrases throughout your paper: “According to Smith (2015)…
Likewise, Miller (2016) proposed… On the contrary, Jones (2009) argued…”
When you “hear” (or read about) the argument, there will be multiple issues that are
discussed. For example, if the authors are discussing the death penalty, they might discuss
these questions: Is it ever moral to kill someone? Does it prevent other people from
committing future crimes? Does it cost more to execute someone or imprison them for life?
What about innocent people who end up being executed? You would then need to tell the
reader what each author said about each issue and compare their viewpoints. You would
not simply summarize each author’s opinions one a time. Instead, you would make
headings for each topic of debate, and then recreate what each author said about that
specific topic of debate. For some topics of debate, perhaps all of the authors said
something, but for other topics of debate, maybe only two of the authors discussed that
topic, so then you would only discuss those two authors for that topic.
As mentioned above, you will arrange the paper by issues, not by articles or authors. Do
not summarize or discuss one article in each paragraph. Each body paragraph should have
at least two different sources about the same topic of debate (though they can and
should be saying different things about the topic). For example, you’ll have a section in your
paper on the morality of the death penalty, and then you’ll say everything that all of the
authors said about morality. Then you’ll move on to the issue of cost and state each
author’s viewpoint on cost. Within each section, you will be comparing and contrasting the
different authors’ views. Who agreed with each other? Who didn’t? What were the
similarities and differences? Most of the authors will show up in several different places in
your paper since they may talk about several of the issues related to your topic.
• 1,750-2,250 words
• 7 to 10 sources (at least 2 sources must be from outside of TSIS)
• Use past tense verbs in signal phrases (Smith argued…)
• typed using 12-point font (Times New Roman)
• 1-inch margins, double spaced
• in-text citations in APA format for paraphrases and quotes
• References page for all sources in APA format
Transition Words & Phrases
To Compare To Contrast To Explain or Give Examples
In the same way, However, For example,
Likewise, In contrast, For instance,
Similarly, On the contrary, Specifically,
Also, On the other hand, As an illustration,
Another… Conversely, To illustrate,
In addition, Although… …., such as….
Moreover, On the opposite side, In other words,
Example of Synthesis Paragraph about One Topic of Debate
Heading for Topic of Debate
In terms of [point of debate], many authors have different opinions on whether
___________. Some authors believe ______________. For example, [AUTHOR 1] argued
________________________. In other words, _________________________. [AUTHOR 2] would likely
support [AUTHOR 1] because he asserted that ___________________________. In other words, he
believes that ______________________.
Others take a different approach and argued that ___________________. For instance,
[AUTHOR 3) stated that ___________________. This means that ______________. She would likely
disagree with [AUTHOR 1] because of __________________________. On the other hand, [AUTHOR
4] might disagree with [AUTHOR 1], but for very different reasons than [AUTHOR 3]. They
think ___________. This is important because _____________________. Indeed, there are various
opinions on [point of debate]. Some people believe [one side of debate] whereas others
believe [other side of debate].
Grading Rubric for the Synthesis Essay
Introduction & Thesis _____ /10
− Does the introduction of the essay contain a comprehensive and unbiased summary or
introduction of the issue and the main points of debate?
− Does the thesis clearly state the topic and list the points of debate without bias?
Body (Synthesis of Sources) _____ /40
− Does each paragraph (or each section) contain at least two sources with different
− Are paraphrases and quotes introduced with a signal phrase and explained to the reader?
− Are the opinions of each author clear?
− Are comparisons and contrasts made between the different viewpoints?
− Are both sides of each point given approximately the same amount of coverage?
− Are the body paragraphs unbiased (do not show your opinion)?
Conclusion _____ /10
− Does the conclusion contain an insightful summary of the main points of debate?
− Is the future of the issue discussed?
Organization/Logic/Transitions _____ /20
− Are headings used for each point of debate?
− Does every paragraph have a topic sentence?
− Do the sentences (including paraphrases and quotes) in the paragraph support the topic
− Are transitional phrases used between sentences and paragraphs?
− Does the organization of the paragraphs make sense?
− Does the organization of sentences within each paragraph make sense?
Presentation & Citations _____ /20
− Is the essay free of grammatical, punctuation, spelling?
− Is the essay formatted correctly (12-point Times New Roman, one-inch margins, double
− Are there a variety of sentence structures and varied, sophisticated vocabulary?
− Are in-text citations in APA format used for all paraphrases and quotes?
− Do quotes make up no more than 15% of the paper?
− Is there a References page that is formatted in APA format?
Total points: _____ /100
Is the essay at least 1,750 words?
Did the student use at least 7 sources?
Are at least two sources not from They Say, I Say?