Synthesis

Most weeks, one of the four discussion board groups must submit synthesis posts. (We do not have a synthesis post due at the end of the first week, and the final synthesis post in the course is optional.) A synthesis post asks you to pull together some of the readings and discussions from the prior week. In each synthesis post, you must quote and respond to at least two reading posts by your classmates that have come in since the prior synthesis post. Whenever quoting a passage from another post, do not include the whole original message in your post: always cut everything except the passage you want to quote. You should also quote from the readings from the prior week at least once, and the quotation should not be the same as one that your peers whom you have quoted took for their reading posts. Your goal is to make use of the class lectures and discussions to answer questions and respond to points people had made in their reading posts — whether that means building on their ideas to support your own, slightly modifying the original idea, or rebutting it — and to draw some tentative conclusions. Synthesis posts should be between 425 and 475 words long, not including quotations, and they are due by midnight on Saturday (in other words, at the end of the day). Again, excessive length is a detriment, not a sign of superior effort.

Unlike reading response posts, synthesis posts do not have prompts. They have their own discussion board forums, and you should post your synthesis as reply to my initial post.

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As with reading response posts, the key to synthesis posts is working effectively with quotations. Do not begin a paragraph (let alone the whole post) by quoting a peer; that’s like being a tennis player who refuses to serve. If you start out a paragraph with something like “Ashley says,” you surrender both your initiative and your authority. Again, start by establishing a point you want to make or an issue you want to explore. Then, quote the text and your peers in any way that helps you make your point. Always set up and comment on each quotation, which means you should never present two quotations back-to-back. Also, do not quote your peer quoting the text: quote peers for their ideas, not their evidence.

Your goal is to engage with your peer’s response thoughtfully. That means you cannot simply agree with it. You must respond in one of the following three ways:

1) Extension: This means you think your peer makes a valid point, and you build on their comment logically as the foundation for deeper analysis of the same issue. Think of this as mentally inserting the phrase (note that I say mentally — you shouldn’t write this) if this is true, then I would go further and argue that between the quotation and your own commentary. You then should bring in more textual evidence to support your point.

2) Application: This means that you think your peer makes a valid point, and you use their comment as a way to analyze a different portion of the text. You may find a similarity or a difference between the passage you quote and the one your peer quoted; either way, you still agree with your peer, because any differences result from the passage itself.

3) Rebuttal: This means you find a flaw in your peer’s analysis. This flaw may result from a problem in the logic of the analysis itself, or it may result from your peer misreading or ignoring evidence from the reading that contradicts their point. In either case, keep your criticism focused on the analysis, not the writer, and never indicate that you disagree with the quotation in the set-up for it — always let your reader read the quotation without prejudice.

Following is an example of an excellent synthesis post. Again, the post is not particularly long (432 words plus quotations). In this case, note how well the writer weaves together quotations form the text and from peers. Note also that the writer does not merely agree or disagree with what others in the class have written, but builds on the other posts in both cases. Finally, this post is well-written: grammatically correct, of course, but also concise, with some graceful turns of phrase, and correctly formatted quotations:

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