Your first major assignment, due in a few weeks, calls for you to write an “expository synthesis,” an authoritative report that brings readers up-to-speed with expert opinion on a topic. Whereas in an essay typically advances the author’s thesis, a report presents an understanding that is not, strictly speaking, the author’s.
That doesn’t mean your synthesis can’t be interesting or original. Look, for example, at the way New Yorker writer John Lanchester introduces “The Case Against Civilization”; while his mission is to provide a run-down of recent scholarship on the Neolithic Revolution, he opens by musing over the question of what technology he would miss most. So consider how you might give a personal “spin” to your synthesis of expert opinion.
Fragments of the Past
Use the magazine archive on Google Books to find and submit a compelling Fragment of the Past in the comments, below.
Include the magazine date and the historical Topic for which this fragment is relevant. Note: your fragment doesn’t have to be related to the topic you’re currently researching. Explore the magazine archive and find something weird and interesting, something that challenges your conception of what life used to be like in 19xx.
“The truth of the Oak lies in the Acorn from which it sprouted”—that’s the premise of historical analysis, that we can understand the world by figuring out how and why it came to be this way. This upcoming unit asks you to choose some phenomenon of the present day—a cultural institution like professional football, a movement like gun rights, or a consumer product like skateboards—and seek a deeper understanding of that phenomenon by studying its past. Continue reading
The upcoming Campus Map and Philosophical Dialogue both present opportunities to practice Chicago Style footnote citations. After all, in-text parenthetical citations leave a relatively light footprint on the page, like so.1 Note the placement of the footnote: after the period ending the sentence, not before. This minor contrast with a parenthetic citation is especially striking when you end a sentence with a quotation:
- MLA: “the sentence ends” (Appleby 3).
- Chicago: “the sentence ends.”2
There are two distinct steps to creating good footnote references:
- Figure out how to create a footnote or endnote in your word processing app.
- Pages, Word and GoogleDocs all have an “insert footnote” command in the Insert menu. Use it.
- Master the intricacies of Chicago Style footnote citations. The basic format is:
- 1. Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. (New York: Harper, 2015), p 23.
- News article:
- 2. John Lancaster, “The Case Against Civilization,” The New Yorker, 18 Sep 2017, [page, if any].
- Academic journal article:
- 3. Mark Gius, “The effects of state and Federal gun control laws on school shootings,” Applied Economics Letters 25 no.5 (2018): 318.
- A source cited earlier (the short form):
- 4. Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens p 38.
- A source cited in the previous note: (note that you need to give the page number, even if it’s the same as in the previous note)
- Further details and examples here.
For practice, try this Quiz: this quiz on Blackboard (scored for completion as HW).
Then, demonstrate mastery on this scored Quiz: this quiz on Blackboard.
I’m re-posting the Paragraph Transitions page so it’s easily available to you as you craft your final essay:
- Explain: make sense of something described just above.
- Build on: introduce the next step in a logical argument.
- Question: raise a doubt or even wholly undercut the prior argument.
- Note an unexpected consequence: this combines elements of the prior two: it builds on, but in a way that causes a tonal shift somewhat like calling into question.
- New angle: for example, you might consider sound after focusing on visuals.
- Zoom in: look at an instance of a trend or pattern noted just above.
- Zoom out: name the pattern which the prior ¶'s topic is an example of.
- Intensify: double down on a claim made just above, with (for example) more telling evidence.
- Give another example: keep this to a minimum. It means that the ¶ fails to take us somewhere new. See if you can't present this new example as intensifying your argument, or offering a new angle on the topic.
- Result: what happened next.
- Cause: what led to the events of the prior ¶
- Lateral shift in space: Meanwhile. back at the ranch..."
- Temporal shift: "Two weeks later, ..."
In drawing ideas or information from a source, you have three choices:
- Summary: boil down the idea or information, transforming a page into a sentence or an article into a paragraph.
- Paraphrase: flesh out an idea or present information in your own words, perhaps using new examples, with only minor changes in the length.
- Quotation: use the precise wording from the source (in quotation marks).
Let’s think about how you might use these different approaches to presenting a source, depending on the role of that source in your project. Imagine that you’re writing an essay that critiques the current system of higher education in the United States:
- Which method is best suited to presenting Harari’s notion of shared fictions as a Theory source?
- Which method is best suited to presenting a course syllabus as an Exhibit source?
- Which method is best suited to presenting an essay on higher education as an Argument source?
- Which method is best suited to presenting college enrollment statistics collated by the US government as a Background source?
Post your answers to these questions in this Google Form.
“Once upon a time, as a walk through the woods was taking place on the part of Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf’s jump out from behind a tree occurred, causing her fright.”
What’s wrong with this sentence?
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