Now it’s time to build “up” your essay.
Evaluate what you have written so far. Try putting things in some sort of tentative order. Then use one or more of the following strategies to continue your writing/thinking. (Note: the points below are not meant to be chronological “steps” to follow, but a list of suggestions. Each person’s process is different; use what works for you.)
- Review the sample synthesis essays as we read them in class. What made these essays work? How do professional writers introduce their essays? How do they integrate expert opinions? What types of evidence do the writers use and why? How are these arguments arranged? In short, What device, ideas, details, structure, etc. do the writers use that I could also use in my paper?
- Review the synthesis question you composed and outline your answer (as you would during an actual exam situation). Then use your outline to begin drafting your essay.
- Brainstorm questions related your topic. Then choose the most important questions related to your overall argument and use the sources to answer those. You can even use those questions as a way to organize your essay (hypophora, anyone?).
- Write like a Reader: put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Every few paragraphs or so (after you’ve finished what feels like a “section” in your essay), ask yourself what questions you think the reader might have at that particular point in your essay. For example, after describing a problem, the reader might need some historical information to establish how the problem came to be (e.g., how the valedictorian practice first started and its original rationale). Effective writers anticipate the questions or concerns potential readers may have an address those questions or concerns in a logical manner.
- Ask yourself: what’s missing? This goes along with the previous point. What other information, as of this essay, do you think you’d need?
- Tell stories. Narrative is the most compelling of rhetorical modes. When we hear a story or the writer shares his or her personal observations, we as readers are more compelled to listen. In fact, one your requirements is to include a personal anecdote. Perhaps you can use a story as part of your intro or in response to one of your sources. Don’t be afraid to allow your essay to have a clear narrative voice.
- Determine which sources you’ll use. And more importantly, how and why. Ask yourself, what does this source claim? To what extent do I agree or disagree with its claims? What personal experiences, observations, or other readings (i.e. other sources) confirm or refute this claim and how. Make your thinking crystal clear to the reader.
- Pull quotable excerpts from your sources. When I used to write essays for class (in high school and college), I would often pull all my excerpts/quotes first. You can copy/paste/retype these directly from your anthology. Then use any one or each one as a “jumping off” point. Analyze the excerpt: how does it fit into your larger argument?
- Use your voice. Be funny, sarcastic, satirical, dramatic, humble, etc.
- Evaluate your logos/logic. What facts, statistics, or studies could you include that would help to bolster one or more of your points in your argument? Where in your essay would be the best place to introduce this type of evidence?
- Be interesting. To make your essay interesting to others, first ask yourself what it is about your topic that most interests you. Share something—an unexpected or surprising fact, story, idea—that relates to your topic. How does that relate to the rest of your topic?
- Use a meaningful organization. It may be helpful for you to think about how you’ll organize your thoughts. Will a classical arrangement work best—a Rogerian one, or some hybrid of the two? Speaking of organization, consider organizing your essay into formal sections, with section titles, to make it easier for your reader to follow your ideas.
- Use a variety of rhetorical modes and other types of information. Here’s a partial list: narration, cause-effect, process analysis, expository, description, classification-division, definition, personal experience, anecdotal observations, current events, historical events, expert opinions, refutation/concession, etc.
- Get feedback. Don’t be afraid to share what you’ve written so far, especially if you’re stuck and need some direction. See what others think. Hit the “Share” button in your Word Online document with a peer or Mrs. Ebarvia.