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Chapter 7: Synthesizing Sources From this chapter, youll learn how to synthesize, or combine, different ideas on the same topic so that they say something different together than they did separately. how an informative and persuasive synthesis differ. how to create synthesis statements that will help you review for exams and write term papers. 1copyright© Laraine Flemming
Definition: Synthesizing When you synthesize you look at what two or more writers say about the same topic. paraphrase each main idea. identify how the points of view are similar or different. come up with a general statement that expresses the relationships among the individual sources. add your own point of view to the statement if your purpose is persuasive. 2copyright© Laraine Flemming
The Purpose of Your Synthesis is Important The form your synthesis takes depends a lot on your purpose. If you are synthesizing information from different sources in order to review for exams, then you would lean toward an informative thesis that mainly sums up the different points of view. Heres an example: While two of Lyndon Johnsons biographers Doris Kearns Goodwin and Robert Dallek suggest that Johnson actually cared about the good of the society he governed, Johnsons most famous biographer, Robert Caro, strongly implies that Johnson cared only about power. copyright© Laraine Flemming3
The Synthesis with Persuasion When you synthesize for a term paper, you are usually expected to synthesize different sources on the same subject and come up with your own point of view, which you then have to support, for example: Reading the biographies of Lyndon Johnson its hard to believe that the authors are all writing about the same man. For Doris Kearns Goodwin and Robert Dallek, Johnson was a flawed man, who genuinely wanted to improve the world he lived in. But for Robert Caro, Johnson was more than flawed. He was evil, and Caro dwells on Johnsons blatant and bullying pursuit of power. Caro is a marvelous writer and tells a compelling story, but in the end it is Dallek and Kearns who seem to have truly caught the spirit of the man. copyright© Laraine Flemming4
Starting Small Chapter 7 will give you plenty of practice with longer readings but for now, lets start with single sentences and brief excerpts. Read each of the three statements below. They are the building blocks of your synthesis. 1.Studies by cognitive scientists suggest that when a mental task is too easy, learning doesnt take place as readily because the brain gets bored and doesnt pay attention. 2.As Jonah Lehrer, the author of Proust was a Neuroscientist, writes, in his blog post The Educational Benefit of Ugly Fonts, adding an additional layer of difficulty to a text by making the typeface more difficult to read has the reverse effect of what one might expect: Several studies show that those who read the slightly hard-to-read text remember more than those looking at a clear, easy-to- read version of the same text. 3.Daniel T. Willingham, a cognitive scientist who wrote Why Dont Students Like School, believes that forgetting is the friend of learning, because in the struggle to remember something, we process it more deeply. 5 copyright© Laraine Flemming
Step-by-Step Synthesizing Step 1: Synthesizing begins with making sure you have understood the main idea of each source. Step 2: Mentally or in writing, paraphrase each statement, for example 6copyright© Laraine Flemming
Possible Paraphrases 1.Research in cognitive science suggests that mental tasks need to have some degree of difficulty to activate the brain. 2.Common sense would suggest that making a text more difficult to read by say making the type face smaller would make it harder to understand and remember; but, as Jonah Lehrer explains in his blog post, The Educational Benefit of Ugly Fonts some studies suggest the opposite: Making a text harder to read can improve the readers chances of understanding and remembering. 3.Daniel T. Willingham, the author of Why Dont Students Like School, says that forgetting is a good thing when it comes to learning. As we try to remember the material we forgot, our brain gets a chance to rework it. 7copyright© Laraine Flemming
On to Step 3 Which Gets to the Heart of Synthesizing: Making a Connection Step 3: Once you think you really understand the central point of each source, try to determine how the different sources connect or relate by asking questions like these : Do all the sources agree? Do two agree while the others say something different? Do the sources stem from different time periods, e.g., Does one reflect the thinking of twenty years ago while the others are more modern? Do the authors have different kinds of training, e.g. Is one trained in cognitive science while the others have a non-scientific background? Are all of the sources the same kind of writing or do they differ, e.g. Is one a personal essay while the others are newspaper and magazine articles? Does one author make a claim that the others agree with and then illustrate further or modify slightly. There are more questions to focus your synthesis on pages 433-434 of Chapter 7. 8copyright© Laraine Flemming
Making a Connection What stands out about all three sources is that they agree on a key point: making what we read easier might not be as effective as making it just a little big harder. Thus any one of the following synthesis statements would be correct. They are correct because they manage to sum up or include all three points of view and, in this case, indicate their resemblance. 9copyright© Laraine Flemming
Sample Synthesis Statement with an Informative Purpose Common sense would suggest that the easier we make reading materials, the more readily they will be understood and the ideas remembered. But scientists like Daniel T. Willingham and science writers like Jonah Lehrer are more impressed by the results of cognitive science research than by the wisdom of common sense. Guided by the research, they argue that increasing the difficulty level of a text can have positive results. 10copyright© Laraine Flemming
Sample Synthesis Statement with a Persuasive Purpose From different perspectives, Daniel T. Willingham, the author of Why Dont Students Like School, and Jonah Lehrer, the author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist, make the same point. When readers have to struggle a little to understand what they read, they are likely to learn and remember more. This point of view has also been confirmed by cognitive science researchers, but what we need to see now is more textbooks and school curricula putting theory into practice. 11copyright© Laraine Flemming
A Word to the Wise Theres no one way to write a synthesis statement. Yours might be quite different from the person sitting next to you, depending on your purpose and what aspect of the sources you choose to emphasize. What shouldnt change is the point of view of the sources. They have to be accurately paraphrased and interpreted. But how you combine them is up to you. For an illustration, heres another example based on the same three sources. 12copyright© Laraine Flemming
Another Sample Synthesis In different ways, cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham and science writer Jonah Lehrer make a similar point about how we can improve both understanding and remembering: When the brain has to work a little at mastering new information, the mind benefits. Willingham and Lehrer may be on to something because several studies by cognitive science researchers back up their claim. 13copyright© Laraine Flemming
Spot Quiz: Synthesizing Sources Here are three different takes on Facebook. When you are finished reading them, write your own synthesis statement. Then compare your statement to the one that follows. 1.Thanks to Facebook, many of us have gotten back in touch with friends from high school and college, shared old and new photos, and become better acquainted with some people we might never have grown close to offline. 1.A debate that rages in one household pretty much sums up the two attitudes toward the famed social networking site Facebook. Alan O Riordan, an information technology expert pretty much despises Facebook, saying he doesnt want everyone knowing about his personal life. He also insists that personal contact diminishes for those enrolled in Facebook. His girlfriend Lindsay Gillan, however, says Mr. ORiordan is wrong. A financial advisor, Ms. Gillan thinks that Facebook encourages people to stay in touch, and she cites as proof the way she maintains contact with colleagues who have left her place of work. Some work in other countries now, but they still stay in touch via Facebook. (Adapted from The HeraldScotland, August 3, 2009) 3. Ironically, Facebook, for all the friending it encourages, does not encourage close friendships. When we can keep in touch with our friends via wall-to-walls and see what's going on in their lives from status updates, it's easy to forget that weekly phone call. Then when you're finally home for summer together, it seems like you haven't actually talked in ages. Because you havent! (Adapted from http://www.seventeen.com/college/freshman-15/ways-facebook-is-ruining-our-lives) 14 copyright© Laraine Flemming
Sample Synthesis Statement Its become commonplace to debate the effect of Facebook on friendship. There are those who insist Facebook destroys real friendship, the kind that exists offline and face to face. But there are others who just as passionately claim Facebook creates friendships that might otherwise never have existed. The truth is, both sides are right. Facebook does appear to have a negative effect on close, personal friendships at the same time that it opens the door to long-distance friendships, which might otherwise disappear or never even have existed. copyright© Laraine Flemming15
Synthesizing Recap 1.Decide what kind of synthesis statement you need, informative or persuasive, one that requires a summary of your sources or one that needs additional support because you have expressed your own point of view on the topic. 2.Make sure you thoroughly understand and can paraphrase the main idea of each source. 3.Use questions to determine relationships among the separate sources, e.g. Do the authors all agree or disagree? Were the authors all writing from different time periods or maybe representing different schools of thought? 4.Create a general statement that can take into account or include the specific ideas of each source. If the synthesis is for a term paper, end the statement with your personal perspective or conclusion about the issue. copyright© Laraine Flemming16
Spot Quiz 1. In the 2008 film, The Dark Knight, Christian Bale, was, according to Rolling Stone magazine, the best Batman ever. Dark, brooding, and tormented, he was what Batmans creator Bob Kane intended the masked hero to be, a man determined to do good but beset by his tragic past and personal demons. 2. According to the British magazine Empire, George Clooney was probably the worst Batman ever to grace a movie screen. Clooney was just too hip, too cool, and too confident for the role of the driven masked crusader. Whenever he donned the bat suit, he seemed to be sneering at the cut as not Italian enough. 3. Bob Kane, the comic book artist and writer who created Batman, made a point of not giving Batman any superhuman powers ala Superman. Bruce Wayne, Batmans alter-ego, becomes a crime fighter due to the trauma of seeing his parents murdered. It is his righteous anger and tortured past, not super powers, that make him so effective in his battle against evil-doers. 4. Many people think voiceover legend Kevin Conroy is the finest Batman on record. To his fans, only Conrad has ever caught the complexity of Batmans character. Conroys dynamic vocal range can express both the smooth superficiality of Bruce Wayne and the personal torment behind Batmans pursuit of evildoers. 17copyright© Laraine Flemming
Choose the best synthesis statement 1.Although fans of Batman vary in their choice of who was most successful at playing Batman, the majority vote goes to Christian Bale, who managed to perfectly embody both the sophisticated Bruce Wayne and the furious masked avenger. 2.Batman has been a popular action hero for almost seventy- five years, but after all that time, no one can agree on why a man who dresses up as a bat to track down criminals remains so popular with fans of all ages. 3.There will probably never be universal agreement on who is the best actor to play the role of Batman, but one thing is clear, anyone who takes on the role has to convey Batmans psychic torment, or he wont be successful in the role. copyright© Laraine Flemming18
Final Wrap: Synthesizing Sources 1.When you synthesize several sources on the same subject, what should be your first step? _________________________ 2. What should be your second step? _________________________ 3. How would you synthesize the following brief passages into a persuasive statement that could form the basis for a term paper? copyright© Laraine Flemming19
Source 1 a)Jacques Lusseyran, a French Resistance* fighter, lost his sight at the age of eight. Initially all he could see was a deep blackness but eventually Lusseyran could imagine objects in the world and imbue them with colors so much so that his skills as a strategist were highly prized. Lusseyran could move objects and people around on his mental screen and visualize escape routes better than most of his sighted companions. * The Resistance was the name given to French citizens who fought against the German occupiers in World War II. copyright© Laraine Flemming20
Source 2 2. They Say I'm Deaf. They say I'm deaf, These folks who call me friend. They do not comprehend. They say I'm deaf, And look on me as queer, Because I cannot hear. They say I'm deaf, I, who hear all day My throbbing heart at play, The song the sunset sings, The joy of pretty things. Except from a poem by Saul Kessler copyright© Laraine Flemming21
Source 3 After an industrial accident irreparably damaged his corneas when he was a young man, ZoltanTorey, an Australian psychologist, was keen to hold on to his visual memory. Not only did he not slip into the darkness of deep blindness, he built up a reservoir of visualization to the point where he could compute large sums on an internal blackboard and see a gearbox in three dimensionsfrom the inside out. So convinced of his ability to see in this way, Torey would step out onto the roof of his house at nightwhat did it matter?to repair it, terrifying the neighbors, but doing a creditable job. Adapted from http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jan/13/how-do-we- know-what-we-know/ copyright© Laraine Flemming22
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