Synthesis – Final

Feb 21

Columbus and First Contact (Rev)

1000-word (4p) final draft due by midnight the evening of Sun, Feb 21. In revising your 2-page draft into a 4-page essay, consider the following:


Main title catchy or suggestive, sending a signal as to your mission or conclusion or attitude; subtitle specifying the essay topic. Ideally, the full title (main title and subtitle, separated by a colon) should fit on a single line.


Start by orienting your reader to the problem that your essay addresses: Columbus himself needs no introduction, but the question of how to categorize his colonial ambitions likely does. In doing so, aim for brevity, but aim also to engage your reader’s interest in the topic. The problem should feel real, like something you’re deeply interested in, and not just something you were assigned for a class.

In the second half of the intro ¶, tell the reader what you plan to do in this essay, perhaps naming one or more vital sources. Useful verbs for describing what you will do: analyze, critique, question, examine. End with what you will conclude, i.e. your thesis statement.

Essay Body Structure

Each ¶ should do something different. You might start by summarizing Shoemaker’s theory as to the types of colonialism. Later ¶s might work to characterize Columbus’ colonial project by reference to Shoemaker—ideally in a deepening sequence. If some evidence points to X, while other evidence (or Argument sources) point to Y, then focus a ¶ outlining the evidence for X first, followed by a complicating ¶ arguing for Y. In deciding which point to make first and which ones to cover later, position the most obvious one first, and more sophisticated ones toward the essay’s end.

Using Sources

First, an important complication: texts aren’t created as “Background” or “Exhibit” or “Argument” or “Theory” sources; they take on those roles when writers use them. In this particular project, you may find that the line between “Background” and Argument” sources is a bit fluid: Tinker and Freeland may serve as a background source in one ¶ and an argument source the next. So in applying the following guidelines, consider what the source is doing right now in your paper: if you’re using the source for basic, non-controversial information, it’s serving as background; if you’re presenting the author’s idea or interpretation of events, it’s serving as an argument source.

  • Background — since this information is being presented as fact, summarize or paraphrase rather than quoting. And avoid using signal phrases like “According to”—the only sign that you drew this information from a source should be the source citation.
  • Exhibit — since this your essay’s only source of evidence, there’s a special premium placed on quotation (rather than mere paraphrase) as proof of analytical claims. But don’t forget to follow up your quotations with further analysis. Ideally, a quote cited to argue point X will lead you to a related insight X' (that’s “X-prime” for all you non-math folks). End with a source citation.
  • Argument — since you’re presenting another writer’s view, you may decide to quote in addition to paraphrase or summary. You should definitely use a signal phrase like “According to” so as to make the author a “character” in your essay’s story. End with a source citation.
  • Method (or “Theory”) — since this source plays a central role in your essay’s project, you may want to introduce it with some fanfare, so as to suggest its authority or importance. As with Argument sources, you’re presenting another writer’s idea, so refer to the source by its author’s name, not its title. End with a source citation.

Source Citation

Since most of you are familiar with MLA source citation, we will use it for this first essay. Guidelines here (link to be added). Try to avoid using an online citation generator; if you never learn how to hand-craft citations, you’re at the mercy of machines that often generate ugly and cumbersome Works Cited entries. Whereas if you learn how to hand-craft citations, you’ll be able to edit down machine-made entries into something useful.

Add a Response