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Writing Assignment : The Synthesis Paper - Second Time

Pulling the last part together



We are aiming at a second one to two page paper for the last week of the class which will synthesize the works of at least three of the authors we have read in the final weeks. These authors include:

  • Kerns' Lectures : Epistemology, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant
  • Frayn's Copenhagen
  • Wilson's The Piano Lesson
  • Abbott's Flatland
  • Huston Smith: Forgotten Truth
  • Underhill's Mysticism

Again - an impressive list

We want you again, to make an arguable connection between at least three of these works (a thesis) which you will be able to prove in supporting paragraphs and tie together in a conclusion. These connections may be similarities, differences, or discussions of how fictional characters in these assigned readings exemplify theories espoused by our other authors.

Let's work on this in steps so that you have a manageable task.

  1. The first step - due on Sunday June 3rd by 6PM is the posting of your thesis paragraph. You will post into a folder for the group to which you have been assigned. Groups are identified by numbers. You will find your group listed below (to be posted soon). In that paragraph, you will state your argument (the conclusion you hope to prove) and the works which will be used to prove it. Remember this is a work in progress. You may revise and revise. This is the reason for the early start.
  2. For the following Monday, June 5th you will have posted responses to your group's thesis paragraphs, helping your group members evaluate the quality and provability of their theses. These will be read by you and
  3. By Wednesday evening June 6th you will post your full first draft of the two page paper.
  4. Before Friday June 9th, by midnight, feedback to your group is to be given.
  5. Then by Tuesday June 12th, 12 noon, the final draft of your paper, including revisions, should be posted to your instructor's papers folder. The paper should be clearly labeled "Final Draft." Reading assignments and discussion questions this week are minimal.

It would probably be a good idea to put these dates on your calendar just to remind yourself of when each step is due.

The Groups:
You will be randomly assigned to groups of three and four. You are all expected to read all the papers in your own group folder and comment. Please make sure you do this as early and expeditiously as possible so that your group members can read your comments and can decide what to accept and rewrite based on your suggestions. Please do not wait for the last minute. You are, of course, free to read anyone else's paper in any other group. Reading comments on others' papers can be very helpful. Your group assignment will be posted soon.

  • What should I comment on in these drafts?
    We know that nobody is an expert and of course it is up to the writer to accept or reject your respectful suggestions. Do remember to keep your criticisms about the work only -- therefore they should not be taken personally by anyone.

  • You are looking for the following things:
  • Is the thesis clear? Limited to something provable? Concerned with the works we have read rather than with the world at large? Is it arguable?
  • Do I understand what each paragraph is saying?
  • Does each paragraph relate back to the thesis of the paper or is it not really relevant? (remember - a short paper cannot tell the reader everything you know about the pieces studied; if you try to do that you will go way afield of the case you are trying to make).
  • Can I follow the reasoning easily? Are there transitions from one paragraph to the next which help me to understand where the writer is going?
  • Are the mechanics good: spelling, grammar, citations, sentence construction?
  • Is there a conclusion? Does the conclusion follow from the proof used in the paper and is it directly tied to the proposed argument (thesis) in paragraph one? Am I convinced?


This may seem complicated, however, it is really the same set of standards and the same principles you followed in the paragraphs you have already written.

Feel free to solicit help from your seminar group or from the full class. You should be looking for the same structure in the two page paper as you have in a successful single thesis paragraph. You will need a well explained argument in paragraph one. Some papers will need to define certain terms or portions of the argument more fully in a second paragraph. There should be at least one paragraph of support for each author you are citing, and each of those paragraphs should include quotes (with proper citation form) and your explication (explanation in your own words of exactly what those quotes mean) as well as a statement or reference to show how that quotation supports your thesis statement (from paragraph one).

Remember that your reader will have read the same works you've read so you need not explain the totality of what each piece is. But your reader cannot read your mind and needs to be taken carefully and clearly down the road of your argument. Don't assume that your reader agrees with you about your thesis, about the meaning of what your quoted evidence are saying, or that s/he knows what you mean. Each of these steps must be explained. Ask others to read and comment on the clarity of your argument as well as its validity. That is not cheating -- it's working.